Scientific News | A ‘mega-quake’ triggered by a dinosaur-killing asteroid: study
Washington [US], Oct 7 (ANI): 66 million years ago, a 10 kilometer asteroid slammed into Earth, triggering the extinction of the dinosaurs. New evidence suggests the Chicxulub impact also triggered an earthquake so massive it shook the planet for weeks or months after the collision. The amount of energy released during this “mega-earthquake” is estimated at 1023 joules, about 50,000 times more energy than that released during the magnitude 9.1 earthquake in Sumatra in 2004.
Hermann Bermudez will present evidence of this “mega-earthquake” at the next GSA Connects meeting in Denver this Sunday, October 9. Earlier this year, with the support of a GSA Graduate Student Research Fellowship, Bermudez visited outcrops of the infamous boundary of the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) mass extinction event in Texas, Alabama and Mississippi to collect data, complementing his earlier work in Colombia and Mexico documenting evidence of catastrophic impact.
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In 2014, while conducting fieldwork on the Colombian island of Gorgonilla, Bermudez discovered deposits of spherules – layers of sediment filled with small glass beads (up to 1.1 mm) and shards known as “tektites” and “microtektites” that were ejected into the atmosphere during an asteroid impact. These glass balls were formed when the heat and pressure of the impact melted and dispersed the earth’s crust, ejecting small molten drops into the atmosphere, only to then fall to the surface as glass under the influence of gravity.
The rocks exposed on the coast of Gorgonilla Island tell a story from the bottom of the ocean, about 2 km deep. There, about 3,000 km southwest of the impact site, sand, mud and small sea creatures were accumulating on the ocean floor when the asteroid struck. Layers of mud and sandstone up to 10-15 meters below the seabed underwent soft sediment deformation that is today preserved in outcrops, which Bermudez attributes to shaking from the impact. The shaking faulting and deformation continues through the spherule-rich layer that was deposited after the impact, indicating that the shaking must have continued for the weeks and months it took for these finer-grained deposits reach the bottom of the ocean. Just above these spherule deposits, preserved fern spores signal the first recovery of plant life after the impact.
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Bermudez explains: “The section that I discovered on Gorgonilla Island is a fantastic place to study the K-Pg boundary, because it is one of the best preserved and it was located at the bottom of the ocean, it was therefore not affected by the tsunamis.”
Evidence of deformation from the mega-earthquake is also preserved in Mexico and the United States. At the El Papalote exhibit in Mexico, Bermudez observed evidence of liquefaction – when strong shaking causes water-saturated sediment to flow like a liquid. In Mississippi, Alabama and Texas, Bermudez documented faults and fissures likely associated with the mega-quake. It also documents tsunami deposits on several outcrops, left by a huge wave that was part of the cascading catastrophes resulting from the collision of asteroids. (ANI)
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