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Earth Planet Sci Lett. 1994;128:719-25.

Impact winter and the Cretaceous/Tertiary extinctions: results of a Chicxulub asteroid impact model.

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Geo Eco Arc Research, La Canada, CA 91011, USA.
Geo Eco Arc Res, La Canada, CA
JPL, Pasadena, CA


The Chicxulub impact crater in Mexico is the site of the impact purported to have caused mass extinctions at the Cretaceous/Tertiary (K/T) boundary. 2-D hydrocode modeling of the impact, coupled with studies of the impact site geology, indicate that between 0.4 and 7.0 x 10(17) g of sulfur were vaporized by the impact into anhydrite target rocks. A small portion of the sulfur was released as SO3 or SO4, which converted rapidly into H2SO4 aerosol and fell as acid rain. A radiative transfer model, coupled with a model of coagulation indicates that the aerosol prolonged the initial blackout period caused by impact dust only if the aerosol contained impurities. A larger portion of sulfur was released as SO2, which converted to aerosol slowly, due to the rate-limiting oxidation of SO2. Our radiative transfer calculations, combined with rates of acid production, coagulation, and diffusion indicate that solar transmission was reduced to 10-20% of normal for a period of 8-13 yr. This reduction produced a climate forcing (cooling) of -300 Wm-2, which far exceeded the +8 Wm-2 greenhouse warming, caused by the CO2 released through the vaporization of carbonates, and therefore produced a decade of freezing and near-freezing temperatures. Several decades of moderate warming followed the decade of severe cooling due to the long residence time of CO2. The prolonged impact winter may have been a major cause of the K/T extinctions.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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