Dinosaurs, on the surface of Earth, were quite an unlucky species. A recent study shows that there was only a 13% chance of the mass extinction of the species, which occurred 66 million years ago, and if the asteroid, which wiped out the dinosaurs from our planet, had struck almost anywhere except for where it actually did, the dinosaurs could have survived and who knows they could be our pets today, or we theirs!
The Cretaceous period came to a sudden unfortunate end about 66 million years ago, when an asteroid, estimated to be about 10 km wide, hit the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico. As it is evident that death would have been pretty instant for any living being unlucky enough to have been in the direct line of fire. However, the impact alone wouldn't have spelled global destruction.
Following the crash, vaporized rock and soot were ejected into the atmosphere in huge amounts, which blocked out the sunlight. It caused a nuclear winter effect, disrupting photosynthesis and triggering the collapse of the food chain.
According to the new research done by experts at the Tohoku University in Japan, the severity of the climate changes could vary depending on the location where the asteroid had hit. Areas with higher levels of sedimentary organic material would throw more soot into the stratosphere, cooling the Earth more drastically than if it hit in places with lower hydrocarbon concentrations.
To test the idea, the researchers used a global climate model to comprehend the average temperature anomalies that would have been caused by different levels of soot in the stratosphere.
As per the findings, which were in the journal Scientific Reports, based on the hydrocarbon-rich rock at the impact site, the model pointed that the soot thrown into the air would cool the Earth by a devastating 8 to 11°C on average. The drop could have been as drastic as 17°C over land and 5 to 7°C in the seawater, to a depth of 50 m (164 ft). Rainfall over land, on the other hand, would have dropped by 70 to 85%.
The Tohoku team then examined how widespread these hydrocarbon-rich areas would have been at that time. The researchers found out that they were mostly marine coastal margins, concentrated along shorelines, where algae could deposit more organic matter into the sediment. These areas, the team found, covered just 13% of the Earth's surface. Had the asteroid struck somewhere in the other 87% of the planet, life on Earth could have taken a very different path.
While an impact of the hit by the gigantic space rock would still have caused widespread destruction no matter where it hit, according to the researchers the mass extinction event that occurred wouldn't have been so severe. They even went on to say that some species of dinosaurs may have persisted beyond that clear boundary.