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Biospheric effects of a large extraterrestrial impact: Case study of the cretaceous/tertiary boundary craterThe Chicxulub impact crater, buried in the Yucatan carbonate platform in Mexico, is the site of the impact purported to have caused mass extinctions at the Cretaceous/Tertiary (K/T) boundary. A recently discovered Chicxulub ejecta deposit in Belize contains evidence of carbonate vaporization and precipitation from the vapor plume. Sulfate clasts are almost absent in the Belize ejecta, but are abundant in the coarse ejecta near the crater rim, hwich may reflect the greater abundance of sulfates deep in the target section. The absence of sulfate precipitates in Belize may indicate that most of the vaporized sulfur was deposited in the upper atmosphere. Hydrocode modeling of the impact indicates that between 0.4 to 7.0 x 10(exp 17) g of sulfur were vaporized by the impact in sulfates. Laser experiments indicate that SO2, SO3, and SO4 are produced, and that complex chemical reactions between plume constituents occur during condensation. The sulfur released as SO3 or SO4 converted rapidly into H2HO4 aerosol. A radiative transfer model coupled with a model of coagulation predicts that the aerosol prolonged the initial blackout period caused by impact dust only if it contained impurities. The sulfur released as SO2 converted to aerosol slowly due to the rate limiting oxidation of SO2. Radiative transfer calculations combined with rates of acid production, coagulation, and diffusion indicate that solar transmission was reduced to 10-20 percent of normal for a period of 8-13 years. This reduction produced a climate forcing (cooling) of -300 Wm(exp -2), which far exceeded the +8 Wm(exp -2) greenhouse warming caused by the CO2 released through the vaporization of carbonates, and therefore produced a decade of freezing and near-freezing temperatures. Several decades of moderate warming followed the decade of severe cooling due to the long residence time of CO2. The prolonged impact winter may have been a major cause of the K/T extinctions.
Document ID
Document Type
Contractor Report (CR)
Pope, Kevin O. (Geo Eco Arc Research La Canada, CA, United States)
Date Acquired
September 6, 2013
Publication Date
March 18, 1995
Subject Category
Report/Patent Number
NAS 1.26:198015
Funding Number(s)
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.

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