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Global Tsunami After Asteroid Impact Caused Extinction of Dinosaurs

tsunami Dinosaurs
Chicxulub crater. Image Credit: Dr. Ron Blakely’s geography site. CC-BY-SA-3.0. / Wikimedia

A global tsunami was caused by the asteroid responsible for the extinction of dinosaurs. The asteroid struck nearly sixty-six million years ago near the Chicxulub Puerto and Chicxulub Pueblo communities.

Recently, a group of University of Michigan scientists revealed the findings of a new study that showed the devastation caused by the asteroid. They then published the results in AGU Advances on October 4th as part of a presentation on the impact of the first global tsunami.

The asteroid was about fourteen kilometers wide and left a one hundred kilometer crater in its wake. The impact, according to the study, created a ripple effect of seismic activity. Global temperatures rose immediately, tons of soot, smoke, and dust filled the air, and raging wildfires devastated land. Massive waves over a mile high struck the ocean floor thousands of kilometers from where it hit.

In fact, it was more than thirty times the size of the tsunami that hit in the Indian Ocean in 2004 in which more than 230,000 people perished. The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami with an epicenter in Sumatra, Indonesia had—until this latest discovery of the Chicxulub devastation—been considered the largest tsunami in history.

Chicxulub-animation. Credit: University of Arizona Space Imagery Program. CC-BY-3.0. Animated Gif / Wikipedia

Asteroid caused tsunami and brought the extinction of dinosaurs

Tsunamis are one of the fiercest and most feared natural occurrences. Nearly everyone, for example, likely remembers the one that occurred in Indonesia in 2018. That suddenness alerted us to the unpredictability of these storms that can hit suddenly and just about anywhere on Earth, even in Greece.

Mount Etna in Sicily was the most recent focus of scientific study, as scientist believe its collapse could cause another huge tsunami.

This is what makes the findings on Chicxulub so fascinating. According to the study, the tsunami caused by the asteroid circled the planet within a mere forty-eight hours. It was a thousand times more powerful and forceful than more recent tsunamis.

The study simulated the impact of the first global tsunami at the Chicxulub location in Mexico. Molly Range, lead author, worked on the project as an undergraduate and completed the study for her master’s thesis. “This tsunami was strong enough to disturb and erode sediments in ocean basins halfway around the globe, leaving either a gap in the sedimentary records or a jumble of older sediments,” Range said.

Researchers discovered the most significant damage on New Zealand’s Eastern and Northern shores. This was over twelve thousand kilometers away from Chicxulub. The destruction revealed itself through unusual disturbances of sediments previous scientists had attributed to earthquakes.

Yet, as Range stated, “We feel these deposits are recording the effects of the impact [of the] tsunami, and this is perhaps the most telling confirmation of the global significance of this event.”

Global destruction

A timeline of the events that occurred after the asteroid hit Chicxulub show how rapidly the devastation occurred. Following the University of Michigan team’s simulation, they were able to determine that an hour after the asteroid hit the landscape, the tsunami had widened to include the Gulf of Mexico and North Atlantic.

Four hours after impact, the Central American Seaway was affected all the way into the Pacific. Twenty-four hours later, waves that crossed the Pacific from the Eastern coast were created, and forty-eight hours after impact, the effects of the tsunami were obvious along most of the world’s coastlines.

tsunami Dinosaurs

The Chicxulub Impact Crater off the Yucatan coast near Chicxulub Puerto. CC-BY-SA-4.0. Photo Credit: LawrieM/Wikimedia

Today, however, there is no sign of the asteroid that created such devastation, and the scene at Chicxulub is one of relative calm. Furthermore, dinosaurs are long gone. Yet, the power of nature and the force of its tsunami still haunts the planet to this day.


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