Researchers, working at the University of Exeter and other institutions, have challenged the notion that the asteroid impact believed to have led to the extinction of the dinosaurs caused global firestorms.
It had previously been believed that the impact unleashed a heat pulse causing massive wildfires. However, recreating the conditions of the impact, researchers found that the heat at the sight of the impact lasted less than a minute, not long enough to ignite live plant matter.
Instead, they discovered that the heat further away from the impact, in New Zealand, lasted nearly seven minutes, long enough to set fire to live plants.
Dr Claire Belcher, of the Earth Systems Science Group in Exeter’s Geography Department explained: “This has shown us that the heat was more likely to severely affect ecosystems a long distance away, such that forests in New Zealand would have had more chance of suffering major wildfires than forests in North America that were close to the impact.”
“This flips our understanding of the effects of the impact on its head and means that palaeontologists may need to look for new clues from fossils found a long way from the impact to better understand the mass extinction event.”
Gareth Roberts, News Teambookmark me