Researchers Uncover What Happened On Dinosaurs’ First Day Of Extinction

Researchers from Texas believed they now know what happened a day after Earth lost all dinosaurs because of the giant asteroid that slammed into the planet. The team found “hard evidence” showing how the catastrophe immediately changed the world. 

Scientists previously hypothesized that the asteroid caused large wildfires, tsunamis and extremely high sulfur in the atmosphere, which triggered global cooling. The new study from the University of Texas at Austin uncovered evidence confirming the devastating events happened 24 hours after the impact. 

The researchers analyzed hundreds of feet of rocks from the impact crater offshore of the Yucatan Peninsula. They found charcoal, rocks carried by tsunami backflow and absent sulfur. 

The team said the crater was filled by nearly 425 feet of materials one day after the asteroid landed on Earth. The collected rocks give the most detailed look into the aftermath of the asteroid impact that killed all dinosaurs, according to Sean Gulick, lead researcher and a professor at the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics (UTIG).

"It's an expanded record of events that we were able to recover from within ground zero," Gulick said in a statement. "It tells us about impact processes from an eyewitness location." 

He said hours after the impact, the world experienced a short-lived inferno and a long period of global cooling. Estimate showed the impact released a power of 10 billion atomic bombs similar to what was used in World War II. 

The asteroid also triggered a massive tsunami that reached Illinois. The water pulled landscapes into the crater, which carried different materials to the impact site. 

The findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, would help scientists confirm that the earlier understanding of the asteroid impact is accurate, according to Jay Melosh, a Purdue University professor and expert on impact cratering, 

"It was a momentous day in the history of life, and this is a very clear documentation of what happened at ground zero," Melosh, who was not involved in the study, said.

The study also backs a theory suggesting that the asteroid impact vaporized sulfur-bearing minerals, which reached the atmosphere and changed the planet’s climate.

Gulick said the asteroid impact killed many dinosaurs but the sudden climate change and global cooling caused the wider mass extinction.

Asteroid Impact This is an artist's interpretation of the asteroid impact. The asteroid in the artwork appears much larger than the six-mile rock that scientists hypothesize actually struck the Earth 66 million years ago. NASA/Don Davis