Brevia

Nanodiamonds in the Younger Dryas Boundary Sediment Layer

Science  02 Jan 2009:
Vol. 323, Issue 5910, pp. 94
DOI: 10.1126/science.1162819

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Abstract

We report abundant nanodiamonds in sediments dating to 12.9 ± 0.1 thousand calendar years before the present at multiple locations across North America. Selected area electron diffraction patterns reveal two diamond allotropes in this boundary layer but not above or below that interval. Cubic diamonds form under high temperature-pressure regimes, and n-diamonds also require extraordinary conditions, well outside the range of Earth's typical surficial processes but common to cosmic impacts. N-diamond concentrations range from ≈10 to 3700 parts per billion by weight, comparable to amounts found in known impact layers. These diamonds provide strong evidence for Earth's collision with a rare swarm of carbonaceous chondrites or comets at the onset of the Younger Dryas cool interval, producing multiple airbursts and possible surface impacts, with severe repercussions for plants, animals, and humans in North America.

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