A new comprehensive study conducted by researchers from Purdue University simulates the impact of the Chicxulub asteroid like never before. The meteor in question triggered the Cretaceous-Paleogene Extinction event, that wiped out the dinosaurs and played a major role in shaping life as we know it today. After recovering data from over 100 geological sites and testing out predictions on specialized software, the study provided the most detailed outline of the event’s aftermath in world oceans.
Over 66 million years ago, the most recent natural mass extinction event in Earth’s history took place and wiped out all dinosaurs and as much as 75 % of all life on the planet. It was also the only such event that has been confirmed to occur as a result of extraterrestrial activity; in this case, it was by an asteroid over 8 miles wide that fell as a meteor near the Yucatan Peninsula in modern-day Mexico. It saw a colossal and sudden change in surface temperature all across the globe and sent waves thousands of times more powerful than contemporary tsunamis, leaving very few survivors within 48 hours of impact.
The latest paper documenting the progress of the shockwave that resulted was published Tuesday in the journal AGU Advances. It has previously been presented at the 2019 American Geophysical Union annual conference, but the project was only completed this year. Apart from previous observations, the project gathered fresh data from core samples in around 100 oceanic locations around the world. Physical evidence of the event was found from as far as eastern New Zealand, over 7,500 miles from the Yucatan site.
The information thus accumulated was systemically analyzed and fed through a series of sophisticated professional software in research labs. The first ten minutes of the crater impact simulation were created with the help of a standard program known as ‘hydrocode’, which gave the researchers a good understanding of how the subsequent humongous tsunami began. The model was further built on with the help of two different simulation procedures, known as MOM6 and MOST. The two resulting maps of the event were surprisingly similar, according to the team of researchers.
The study focused solely on the consequences of the impact in world oceans, although some assessments were made about the impact on underwater sediment. The unbelievably massive water waves are said to have reached over one mile from the site of impact, hitting the Gulf of Mexico with over 300 feet of water and even retaining up to 32 feet of its height to the shores of North Atlantic and parts of South America. For context, the deadliest tsunami ever in recorded history reached a maximum height of only around 30 feet in only a few places. The researchers also found that the underwater pressure current travelled at speeds as high as 0.4 miles per hour, enough to effectively wipe out the older sedimental records across half the world.