Asteroid That Wiped Out Dinosaurs Led to Severe Winter

Scientists have now found out that the asteroid that hit the earth and led to the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago also caused a long period of winter and extremely cold temperatures.

The asteroid hit the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico and created a crater with a diameter of 15 km. As a result about three-quarters of all plant and animal species died, including the dinosaurs. The impact sent tons of dust and sulphur gas into the atmosphere.

Now we know that three times more sulphur gas was catapulted into the atmosphere than previously thought. Sunlight was blocked from getting in, which resulted in much lower temperatures. A new study shows that temperatures worldwide dropped to about -10° Celsius for at least three years after the impact. Thus, the earth was plunged into a deadly winter, which many plants and animals could not survive.

While air temperatures probably rose shortly after impact, ocean temperatures may have been affected for centuries. Scientists also found out that the amount of carbon-dioxide that was released into the atmosphere was probably over-estimated.

In new research on the Yucatan peninsula, scientists drilled into the surface of what’s left of the crater and collected rock samples. This allowed them to examine and reconstruct what happened.

 

Crater caused by a meteor crash
Crater caused by a meteor crash – Image : Steve Jurvetson

Words

  • affected = to do something that leads to a change later on
  • asteroid = one of the many small planets that move around the sun especially between Mars and Jupiter
  • block = stop from getting in
  • carbon dioxide = gas that is produced when animals or people breathe out or when you burn carbon in the air
  • catapult = when something moves through the air very quickly
  • cause =  lead to; result in
  • century= a hundred years
  • crater = a round hole made by a large object crashing into something
  • diameter = a straight line from one side of a circle to the other
  • drill = to make a hole into the surface
  • drop = go down
  • examine = look at closely
  • extinction = when animals or plants die out
  • impact = crash
  • over-estimated = less than thought at first
  • peninsula = land with water on three sides
  • plunge = here: to suddenly change
  • previously = earlier
  • reconstruct = to see how something happened by putting the facts together
  • release= set free
  • research = to look at something closely in order to find out more about it
  • sample = here: rocks that scientists can study and look at
  • scientist = a person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • species = group of animals and plants whose members are similar and who can produce babies together
  • sulphur gas = a yellow bright substance that burns and has an unpleasant smell
  • survive  = continue to live after a dangerous situation