In DepthPlanetary Science

Dust from asteroid breakup veiled and cooled Earth

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Science  20 Sep 2019:
Vol. 365, Issue 6459, pp. 1230
DOI: 10.1126/science.365.6459.1230

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Summary

Faced with a dangerously warming world, would-be geoengineers have dreamed up ways to quickly turn down the heat. One proposed technique: spreading a veil of dust that would sit in space or Earth's atmosphere and reflect sunlight. Researchers say they have now found evidence for a similar experiment that played out naturally 466 million years ago when an asteroid out in space exploded into bits. Dust from the breakup blanketed the planet, plunging it into an ice age that was soon followed by an explosion in animal life, the researchers say. The ancient episode offers both encouragement and caution for geoengineers. It dramatically demonstrates how dust can cool the planet, but the deep freeze is a lesson in potential unintended consequences.

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