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Dinosaurs Could Have Avoided Extinction If The Asteroid Had Landed Anywhere Else On Earth

Talk about bad luck.

13/11/2017 13:34 SAST | Updated 13/11/2017 15:48 SAST

The dinosaurs being wiped off the face of the earth seems a pretty unavoidable fate when you consider it was the result of a giant asteroid landing on top of them.

But now a new study has revealed that actually there was only a 13% chance of the event causing mass extinction.

In fact, if the asteroid had landed (almost) anywhere else on the planet it wouldn’t have triggered the same catastrophic chain of events and the history of the world would be entirely different.

estt via Getty Images

The team from Tohoku University have been looking at the consequences of the ’Chicxulub Impactor’ rock, which collided with earth around 66 million years ago, and was ultimately responsible for killing the dinosaurs.

The asteroid landed in a marine coastal margin, that was rich in hydrocarbon, and where sedimentary rocks were thickly deposited. 

Kunio Kaiho

The impact on this terrain - which created a 180-kilometre-wide crater - sent vast quantities of heat through the organic hydrocarbon matter and ejected it out into the atmosphere causing huge quantities of soot to collect in the air.

And because soot is a light-absorbing aerosol, it resulted in a global cooling of between 8-11°C and cooling on land of 13-17°C.

It also caused a decrease in precipitation by approximately 70-85% on land and a decrease of approximately 5-7°C in seawater temperature at a 50m water depth.

These huge global climate changes triggered not only the mass extinction of dinosaurs, but ammonites and other animals, and also made it possible for humans to then evolve.

Professor Kunio Kaiho says that if the asteroid had instead hit a low-medium hydrocarbon area, which accounts for 87% of the planet, then mass extinction could not have occurred.

This means that the Mesozoic animal and plant life could have persisted for longer.

To come to their findings the researchers calculated the amount of soot in the stratosphere and estimated climate changes that this would have caused using a model developed by the Meteorological Institute.