It must've been quite a spectacular explosion, and it resulted in tremendous global warming.
A massive comet slammed into Earth and caused global temperatures to spike and sea levels to rise about 56 million years ago, according to a new study from researchers at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. This strike, which would have happened 10 million years after the extinction of the dinosaurs, would have caused the global warming event known as the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum.
Scientists now know this global warming event was caused by an extraterrestrial impact after scientists found microtektites while searching for fossils, the institute said in a statement. Microtektites resemble dark glassy spheres, and researchers found three microtektites per gram of sediment examined. They believe the amount of carbon this comet introduced into the atmosphere would have caused a huge change in the Earth’s climate.
Researchers found that some of the microtektites contained “shocked quartz,” indicating an impact at an incredibly high speed. The subsequent global warming would have caused Earth’s temperature to rise by 5 to 8 degrees Celsius for the next 150,000 years.
“This tells us that there was an extraterrestrial impact at the time this sediment was deposited – a space rock hit the planet,” said Morgan Schaller, an assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences at Rensselaer, and corresponding author of the paper. “The coincidence of an impact with a major climate change is nothing short of remarkable.”