Environmental Effects of an Impact-Generated Dust Cloud: Implications for the Cretaceous-Tertiary Extinctions

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  21 Jan 1983:
Vol. 219, Issue 4582, pp. 287-289
DOI: 10.1126/science.219.4582.287


A model of the evolution and radiative effects of a debris cloud from a hypothesized impact event at the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary suggests that the cloud could have reduced the amount of light at the earth's surface below that required for photosynthesis for several months and, for a somewhat shorter interval, even below that needed for many animals to see. For 6 months to 1 year, the surface would cool; the oceans would cool only a few degrees Celsius at most, but the continents might cool a maximum of 40 Kelvin. Extinctions in the ocean may have been caused primarily by the temporary cessation of photosynthesis, but those on land may have been primarily induced by a combination of lowered temperatures and reduced light.

Stay Connected to Science