The asteroid that killed the dinosaurs hit the worst possible place on Earth

A new study by the Tohoku University and the Tsukuba Institute of Meteorological Research (both in Japan), published in Nature, suggests that the reign of Dinosaurs could have possibly continued if the massive asteroid that struck our planet 66 million years ago had impacted Earth elsewhere and not at the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico.

Authored by Kunio Kaiho and Naga Oshima, the new study titled: “Site of asteroid impact changed the history of life on Earth: the low probability of mass extinction,” indicates that the asteroid that impacted Earth had a little more than a one-in-10 chance of triggering a mass extinction on Earth as it struck our planet violently.

The massive collision event, which eventually gave rise to the Chicxulub crater annihilated around 75 percent of animal life on our planet in what is today referred to as the Cretaceous-Paleogene or K-Pg extinction event.

Scientists now say that the collision was an exceptionally unlikely shot.

Tyrannosaurus, a prehistoric era dinosaur. Image Credit Shutterstock

According to the newly published study, had the massive asteroid impacted our planet in any other part of the world, like in the middle of most continents or even the ocean, Earth’s massive reptiles most likely would have survived the extinction event.

“This significant event could [only] have occurred if the asteroid hit the hydrocarbon-rich areas occupying approximately 13% of the Earth’s surface,” they said in a study recently published in the journal Nature.

In fact, researchers note that only 13 percent of Earth’s surface had the necessary ingredients to turn the collision event into a mass extinction.

Researchers argue that the massive energy produced during the collision had a combustible impact on the humongous reservoirs of hydrocarbons and crude oil stored beneath a shallow sea in the Yucatán Peninsula.

In fact, one thing led to another. The combustion created after the impact would have blown out massive amounts of soot and sulfur into our planet’s stratosphere blocking the sun, which triggered a set of events that caused entire ecosystems to collapse, and eventually destroying up to three-quarters of Earth’s inhabitants.

Global map showing the amount of organic matter in sedimentary rocks ejected if the Chicxulub asteroid hit various locations at the end of the Cretaceous. Image Credit: Nature

“The probability of mass extinction was quite low even with an asteroid as large as the [Chicxulub asteroid] because hydrocarbon-rich and sulfate-rich sites were rare,” said Kaiho and Oshima. If the asteroid had hit a low–medium hydrocarbon area, mass extinction could not have occurred.”

According to previous calculations, scientists believe that the asteroid impact released energy around a billion times more powerful than the combined power of the atomic bombs that were released on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

Scientists concluded that around 87 percent of our planet surface—in areas like most of present-day Africa, China, India, and the Amazon—would not have had high-enough concentrations of hydrocarbons to lead to such an apocalyptic result on dinosaurs if the asteroid had collided there.

Such an extinction event would have been triggered if the asteroid had crashed into marine coastal areas rich in algae, such as the present-day eastern coast of North America, the Middle East, and Siberia, concluded scientists.

Source: Site of asteroid impact changed the history of life on Earth: the low probability of mass extinction

Featured image: Shutterstock

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