“Baby, it’s cold outside!” The effects of the end-Cretaceous asteroid impact

No, the title is not an attempt to sound funny. Baby, it’s cold outside: Climate model simulations of the effects of the asteroid impact at the end of the Cretaceous is a new study published by a team of researchers led by Julia Brugger, affiliated with the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, University of Potsdam, and the Berlin-Brandenburg Institute of Advanced Biodiversity Research.

The end-Cretaceous, or Cretaceous–Paleogene, mass extinction was one of the major extinction events in the history of life. The exact cause of the mass extinction is a matter of continuing debates. But the effects are clear – a huge number of organisms, including the non-bird dinosaurs, pterosaurs, plesiosaurs, and numerous other fascinating groups, died out. Nevertheless, it seems to be beyond doubt that the asteroid impact played a huge role in it. It shouldn’t surprise that the effects of the impact are still being intensively studied.

Brugger and her colleagues used a coupled climatic model to study longer-lasting climate cooling due to sulfate aerosols in the atmosphere, formed following the asteroid impact at the end of the Late Cretaceous.

The study estimates that the “global annual mean surface air temperature decreased by at least 26°C, with 3 to 16 years subfreezing temperatures and a recovery time larger than 30 years”. Such drastic changes must have been extremely destructive to the ecosystems.

Featured image © Courthouse News Service.

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