Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Absence of evidence for a meteorite impact event 13,000 years ago

An international team of scientists led by researchers at the University of Hawaii at Manoa have found no evidence supporting an extraterrestrial impact event at the onset of the Younger Dryas ~13000 years ago.

The Younger Dryas is an abrupt cooling event in Earth's history. It coincided with the extinction of many large mammals including the woolly mammoth, the saber toothed jaguar and many sloths. This cooling period is generally considered to be the result of the complex global climate system, possibly spurred on by a reduction or slowdown of the thermohaline circulation in North America.

This paradigm was challenged two years ago by a group of researchers that reported finding high iridium concentrations in terrestrial sediments dated during this time period, which led them to theorise that an impact event was instead the instigator of this climate shift. A team led by François Paquay, a Doctoral graduate student in the Department of Geology and Geophysics at the University of Hawaii at Manoa (UHM) decided to also investigate this theory, to add more evidence to what they considered a conceptually appealing theory.

However, not only were they unable to replicate the results found by the other researchers, but additional lines of evidence failed to support an impact theory for the onset of the Younger Dryas. Their results will be published in the December 7th early online edition of the prestigious journal the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The idea that an impact event may have been the instigator for this cooling period was appealing because of several alleged impact markers, especially the high iridium concentrations that the previous team reported. However, it is difficult for proponents of this theory to explain why no impact crater of this age is known. "There is a black mat layer across North America which is correlated to the Younger Dryas climatic shift seen in Greenland ice cores dated at 13 thousand years ago by radio carbon," explains Paquay. "Initially I thought this type of layer could be associated with an impact event because concentration in the proxies of widespread wildfires are sky high. That plus very high levels of iridium (which is one indicator used to indicate extraterrestrial impact events). So the theory was conceptually appealing, but because of the missing impact site, the idea of one or multiple airburst arose."

To corroborate the theory, Paquay and his colleagues decided to take a three-pronged approach. The first was to replicate the original researchers data, the second step was to look for other tracers, specifically osmium isotopes, of extraterrestrial matter in those rocks, and the third step was to look for these concentrations in other settings. "Because there are so many aspects to the impact theory, we decided to just focus on geochemical evidence that was associated with it, like the concentration of iridium and other platinum group elements, and the osmium isotopes," says Paquay. "We also decided to look in very high resolution sediment cores across North America, and yet we could find nothing in our data to support their theory."

The team includes American, Belgian and Canadian researchers. Analysis of the sediments was done both at UHM and in Belgium, using the same sediments from the same interval and indepedently did the analysis work and got similar results. Both the marine and terrestrial sediment records do not indicate that an impact event was the trigger for the transition into the Younger Dryas cold period. "The marine and terrestrial record both complement each other to support this finding," concludes Paquay. "That's what makes the beauty of this study."

This project was supported by the Geological Society of America and the National Science Foundation. Sediment samples were provided by the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program.

The other authors from this paper are Greg Ravizza (also from UHM), Steven Goderis and Philippe Claeys from Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Frank Vanhaeck from the Universiteit Ghent, Matthew Boyd from Lakehead University, Todd A. Surovell from the University of Wyoming at Laramie, and Vance T. Holliday and C. Vance Haynes, Jr. from the University of Arizona at Tucson.

This research will be presented at the American Geophysical Union Fall 2009 Meeting in San Francisco. Wednesday December 16th, 2:52 PM - 3:04 PM, Room 2006 Moscone West

Session Title: PP33B. "Younger Dryas Boundary: Extraterrestrial Impact or Not? II"

Contact: François S. Paquay, Graduate Student, Department of Geology and Geophysics, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, University of Hawaii at Manoa, (808) 673-3137

SOEST Media Contact: Tara Hicks Johnson, (808) 956-3151,

Absence of geochemical evidence for an impact event at the Bølling–Allerød/Younger Dryas transition. François S. Paquay, Greg Ravizza (University of Hawaii at Manoa), Steven Goderis, Philippe Claeys (Vrije Universiteit Brussel), Steven Goderis, Frank Vanhaeck (Universiteit Ghent), Matthew Boyd (Lakehead University), Todd A. Surovell (University of Wyoming at Laramie), Vance T. Holliday, C. Vance Haynes, Jr. (University of Arizona at Tucson)

PNAS Early Edition, December 7, 2009 www.pnas.org_cgi_doi_10.1073_pnas.0908874106

The School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa was established by the Board of Regents of the University of Hawai'i in 1988 in recognition of the need to realign and further strengthen the excellent education and research resources available within the University. SOEST brings together four academic departments, three research institutes, several federal cooperative programs, and support facilities of the highest quality in the nation to meet challenges in the ocean, earth and planetary sciences and technologies.

Tara Hicks Johnson | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht UCI and NASA document accelerated glacier melting in West Antarctica
26.10.2016 | University of California - Irvine

nachricht Ice shelf vibrations cause unusual waves in Antarctic atmosphere
25.10.2016 | American Geophysical Union

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Greater Range and Longer Lifetime

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VDI presents International Bionic Award of the Schauenburg Foundation

26.10.2016 | Awards Funding

3-D-printed magnets

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>