Scientists still don’t know what killed the dinosaurs, but a new study may give further proof to the comet strike theory. Researchers have found that the impact of an extraterrestrial body may have led to the prehistoric global warming event that took place about 56 million years ago.
The time period is known as the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum. During that time, Earth’s temperature increased by around 9 to 14 degrees. It eventually went back to normal in about 100,000 years, but it wasn’t without consequence for the Earth’s populous fauna.
Prehistoric Global Warming Triggered By Massive Carbon Emission
During this time, many of the Earth’s dominant species went extinct, leading to the rise of mammals. Scientists are quick to point at comets as the cause for the prehistoric global warming because the space rocks are known to contain a carbon isotope known as Carbon-12. This isotope is known to have been present in large quantities in Earth’s atmosphere during the global warming event.
Researchers analyzed 56 million-year-old sediment cores found in New Jersey and Florida. This led them to find microtektites. These very small spherical glass pieces usually emerge when a space rock, like a meteorite or a comet, hits the Earth’s surface.
The microtektites are basically debris that emerged as a result of the collision. As tiny as the particles are, they could be the ones that spread the large quantities of carbon into the Earth’s atmosphere.
Scientists Still Can’t Decide On The Real Cause Of The Event
There is, of course, a lot more research to be done before this theory can be properly linked to the prehistoric global warming. Critics of the comet theory say the quantity of carbon caused by the impact would have been too small to cause such an astonishing mass-extinction event.
The more popular theory is that a great number of volcanic eruptions have triggered the greenhouse effect. Scientists are studying the massive warming event in order to better understand the global warming that humanity is faced with today.
The one thing that is certain is that it was this specific global warming event that led to the rise of mammals as Earth’s dominant species, and, indirectly to the rise of humans. Could a similar global warming lead to our demise?
Image source: Wikipedia