Around 12,800 years ago, a massive climate change occurred on Earth which started an Ice Age that lasted another 10,000 years, just as our home planet was recovering from one. The event is called Younger Dryas and it caused a temporary reversal of climate warming after the Last Glacial Maximum (an ice age that lasted 1,00,000 years) started receding.
The Younger Dryas event has always puzzled the scientific community due to the spontaneity and erratic nature of the event. It is understood that such an event could not have been caused simply as due course of nature and an external interruption had to be behind it.
Recently, researchers have found large evidence for one such possibility – a comet strike. The new evidence of a comet impact also suggests that before the ice age came firestorm and massive destruction of life on Earth.
This large fire can be compared to a separate prehistoric firestorm that took the lives of the dinosaurs. The older fire was an outcome of space rock, nearly a 100-kilometer in width when it slapped to the Earth’s surface.
The prehistoric fire eventually cooled off, leaving thick clouds of dust that were stuck in the atmospheric region. This led to another widescale ice age event, which kept the planet colder for thousands of years. During this time, Earth was still recovering from being covered with glaciers for 100,000 years.
University of Kansas and co-author of the study Adrian Melott said in a Science Alert report that the theory about the raging fires and the sudden ice age is caused by a large comet th at had its fragments scattered across the face of our planet.
Melott explained that the event was imprinted in many chemical signatures extracted from nitrate, carbon dioxide, ammonia, and other elements. Based on the records, 10 percent of the planet’s surface, or about 10 million square kilometers, was consumed by fire.
The study of the Younger Dryas event also tells us that a similar comet strike is possible in the future and what kind of an impact would it cause in present times.
According to Melott, if the event that took place 13,000 years ago repeated itself in modern age, it would deplete the Ozone layer causing increase in skin cancer, make food sources scarce, and force humans to adapt to harsher climate conditions overnight causing a decline of the population.
The research has been published in The University of Chicago Press Journals and sheds light on the Younger Dryas event that has been a confusing time period for geologists worldwide. There have been two popular theories around the event, Laacher See volcano eruption and Impact Theory.
The findings from this research points out that the Impact theory of a comet strike is the more plausible explanation for the ice age event. What’s scary is that before the ice age and temporary shift of climate came in, there apparently was complete chaos and firestorm that engulfed 10% ( 10 million square kilometers) of the surface of Earth.
A Comet strike set off the Younger Dryas event
According to this hypothesis, a large comet of around 100 kilometers diameter approached Earth 13,000 years ago and its debris fell onto the Earth. Thousands of fragmented comet pieces fell on Earth sparking a gigantic firestorm . These pieces were large enough to cause massive damage, and that’s what they did.
The fragments of the comet struck the surface of the Earth at various places and instantly caused fires to break out. The firestorms grew so large that about 10% of Earth began burning. A large part of existing life collapsed due to this disaster. But this was just one half of the entire destruction.
While the surface of the planet kept burning, dust and smoke covered the Earth and soon the entire planet was blanketed by a sheet that prevented sunlight from reaching the planet. As the sunlight was blocked from reaching the surface of the planet, it kick-started yet another ice age.
“The hypothesis is that a large comet fragmented and the chunks impacted the Earth, causing this disaster…A number of different chemical signatures – carbon dioxide, nitrate, ammonia and others – all seem to indicate that an astonishing 10 percent of the Earth’s land surface, or about 10 million square kilometers [3.86 million square miles], was consumed by fires,” said Adrian Melott, co-author of the study from the University of Kansas.