New theory for KT mass extinction event

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Anyone fancy some "light" reading for a Sunday?

I have just finished this research paper and would love any, honest feedback.
The theory is new although based on established research: the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs did not just hit the Earth like a nuclear bomb but was more like a bullet to the head.
Had some excellent pointers from a Nobel Prize winner but what is that compared to the Fossil Forum.


Earth Assassination Theory:


    The Cretaceous-Tertiary, or K-T, extinction event is the most widely known mass extinction event in Earth’s history due to its nom de plume “the death of the dinosaurs”. Occurring approximately 66 million years ago, the K-T led to the mass-extinction of three-quarters of all plant and animal species on the planet. The reasons for such devastation to life are linked to increased volcanic activity and climate change caused by a meteorite impact or mass lava flow that occurred at the time. The meteorite impact has been identified at Chicxulub on the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico. The mass lava ejection occurred at the Deccan Traps, off the coast of Western India.


    The Chicxulub collision created the same amount of energy as 100 teratonnes of TNT, a billion times the power of the atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Research confirms the incoming projectile created giant firestorms and tsunamis that vaporized much of the Americas. A dust cloud formed in the atmosphere reducing sunlight for up to ten years devastating plant and marine life. Across the other side of the world, the Deccan Traps exploded out of the Earth, as basalt lava flowed out of the mantle for tens of thousands of years covering up to 1.5 million km², approximately half the size of modern India. Both of these events lead to the extinction of 75% of all species of plant and animal life on Earth.


    The fact both events occurred 66 million years ago, at the time of the K-T extinction, supports many research hypothesis. However, there is a further geographical correlation between Chicxulub and the Deccan Traps. The locations are approximately the opposite side of the planet from one another taking into account plate tectonic movements over 66 million years. It is the hypothesis of this paper the kinetic energy the Chicxulub impact created the Deccan Traps with the single event acting as an assassination of life on the Earth. A simplified analogy is a gun shot to the head - a high velocity projectile enters one side of a pressurized sphere, as it slows to a stop inside the enormous kinetic energy is transferred forward and explodes out of the far side. A further hypothesis is this type of event has occurred multiple times throughout Earth’s history and each time has led to a mass extinction event.

    The mass extinction event at the margin of the Cretaceous and Tertiary Periods, or K-T boundary, is widely studied and researched. The prominent cause involves an asteroid impact. However, there are many conflicting hypothesis for such wide-spread plant and animal extinctions that include increased volcanism, mass lava ejections, sea level regression and climate change.


    The Chicxulub impact, on the present-day Yucatan peninsula, Mexico, is considered the most likely location of the asteroid impact. This impact has also been extensively and accurately modeled by Los Alamos National Laboratory1 and the University of Arizona2. While these models prove the devastating power of the impact they assume the meteor was flattened or destroyed in the initial collision.

    However, studies by Adrian Jones and David Price at University College London3 suggest meteorites 10km or larger could punch through the Earth’s crust and enter the mantle. Using the minimum factors for the Chicxulub asteroid on the Imperial College London “Earth Impact Effects Program”4 a 10km diameter object traveling at median asteroid speed of 17km/s would make a crater 30km deep. The Earth’s outer surface at Chicxulub is continental crust at 10km - 20km thickness.


    The Chicxulub asteroid could have been even larger. Hector Durand-Manterola and Guadalupe Cordero-Tercero at Cornell University5 have confirmed the physical parameters of the impactor are not limited. Based on concentrations of iridium and the mass of the object, they found the asteroid was a minimum 10.6km in diameter up to a maximum 80.9km in diameter. Their calculations also concluded that the impactor wasn’t an asteroid at all but a comet.


    Asteroids travel at approximately 10 - 30km/s. Comets travel at approximately 50 - 70km/s. It is the hypothesis of this paper the Chicxulub impact punched through the Earth’s crust and entered the mantle.


    The Earth’s crust “floats” on top of the mantle; however, the mantle is a very viscous liquid that is predominantly solid. Only very high pressures and temperatures can melt the mantle to create magma plumes. These are seen around the world’s surface as lava running like a river. Geology and physics show the Chicxulub impact created extreme levels of heat and pressure when it crashed through the crust and entered the mantle. This paper contends ballistics play a crucial role. The Chicxulub comet would have acted as a “kinetic energy penetrator” (K.E.P.) on the Earth. In the military this is an ammunition that does not contain explosives but uses its speed and mass to penetrate, and destroy, a target. Durand-Manterola and Cordero-Tercero5 have calculated the kinetic energy of the Chicxulub impact was up to 5.8x1025 Joules, the single, most powerful event to ever occur on the Earth.


    When a “kinetic energy penetrator” hits a solid object the enormous energy transfer forces the solid to behave like a liquid. This means the K.E.P. can penetrate further. As the K.E.P. enters it creates cavitation through a high pressure heat wave. Ballistics could model how far the Chicxulub comet could penetrate the mantle.


    The Chicxulub comet would only travel so far into the mantle and then come to a stop. This action is the most destructive in ballistics as it leads to a “high energy transfer”. When a high speed projectile penetrates an object and comes to a stop it transfers all of its kinetic energy into the object in the form of a shock wave. That shock wave travels onwards, along the entry path, with devastating effects.


    Therefore in ballistics, exit wounds, where a projectile comes to a stop and a shock wave has travelled through an object to explode out of the opposite side, are much larger and have a longer lasting effects than entry wounds. The Deccan Traps, where plumes of magma exploded from inside the Earth at approximately the same time as the Chicxulub impact, cover an area up to 1.5 million km² while the Yucatan crater is 25,450 km².
    The theory a comet impact on one side of a planet could result in damage on the opposite side, the “exit wound” being antipodal to the “entry wound”, has been proposed based on research on other planets in our solar system. P. Schultz and D. Gault6 proposed disruption to the moon as early as 1975. D. Weber, T. Bennett and C. Weber7 demonstrated the correlation between magma bulges and volanoes on Mars and Mercury with large impact craters on the other side of the planet.


    It would be disingenuous not to mention that antipodal theory has been proposed for our planet. Mark Richards, at UC Berkeley, has published research on the “uncomfortably close coincidence”8 between the Deccan Traps and Chicxulub crater. However, the Berkeley team’s hypothesis focuses on the impact energy splitting, traveling around the planet’s crust and then coming together antipodal to the collision and forcing lava up from below.


    The Berkeley team’s research highlighted an issue with antipodal theory - the Deccan Traps are 5,000km from the exact, opposite spot of the Chicxulub crater. Two issues can challenge this. The first is this fact relates to their positions today. It does not take into account 66 million years of continental drift. The second relates to ballistics. The angle at which the comet hit, and penetrated, the Earth’s surface, would determine where the antipodal position would be created, not just the location.


    This introduction demonstrates a strong correlation between the Chicxulub impact crater and the Deccan Traps. Combined with studies in ballistics, the hypothesis would be a comet traveling at very high speed impacted the Earth like a bullet, the kinetic energy penetrator smashed through the crust, it continued moving into the mantle, when it stopped the kinetic energy was transferred into a shock wave that continued on through the Earth and exploded out of the other side of the planet.


    As antipodal theory has been seen multiple times in other planets in our solar system, a further hypothesis would be this same event has occurred at other moments in the history of the Earth. Research at Ohio State University9, links the Wilkes Crater in Antarctica with the Siberian Traps in the Arctic. These events occurred at the time of the “Great Dying” at the Permian-Triassic, or P-Tr, boundary mass extinction event 252 million years ago. This paper postulates a link between start of the Central Atlantic magmatic province and the Bedout impact in Australia. Both events occurred around 200 million years ago, are antipodal and are linked to the Triassic-Jurassic extinction event 201.3 million years ago.


    In the sections below, we look in greater detail at the proposals. The crucial role ballistics may have on geological impact theories is investigated more thoroughly. The physics of impacts is also explored in greater detail including the use of Sir Isaac Newton’s “approximation for the penetration depth of a projectile at high velocity”. The hypothesis of this paper remains consistent - the kinetic energy of the comet impact at Chicxulub was an entry wound where a projectile shot through the Earth’s crust, into the mantle and the shock wave exploded out of an exit wound that we know as the Deccan Traps. It was an assassination in all but name.         



    The scientific debate on the Cretaceous-Tertiary, or K-T, mass extinction event has focused on a meteorite impact since 1980. Physicists Luis and Walter Alvarez, with chemists Frank Asaro and Helen Michel, produced the first evidence of an impact10. Across the globe from Italy to New Zealand the team found a layer of iridium in the geological sedimentary layers of the K-T boundary. This has become known as the “iridium anomaly”. Iridium is extremely rare in the Earth’s crust but abundant in meteors, asteroids and comets. The conclusion was the concentration of iridium at the K-T boundary, up to 160 times normal levels in one sample, had to have been from an extra-terrestrial source.
    Iridium is also derived from a terrestrial origin or more precisely a sub-terrestrial source. Christian Ganter, in his 1986 paper11, showed iridium is only present in the mantle at significant depths and I. Olmez, D. Finnegan and W. Zoller (1986)12 demonstrated modern volcanic eruptions fed by magma plumes from deep inside the planet, like at Kilauea in Hawaii, contain high levels of iridium. The Deccan Traps rate of eruption was at least 30 times the rate of the Hawaiian eruptions today and estimates of the fire fountains generated by eruptions on the scale of the Deccan Traps suggests that aerosols and ash would easily have been carried into the stratosphere. The iridium anomaly at the K-T boundary could have been created by a single or multiple asteroid impacts or the massive eruptions at the Deccan Traps that lasted for approximately a million years. 


    While the asteroid impact theory was radical and contentious at the time, an impact event has come to be one of the most prominent hypotheses for the mass extinction of plant and animal life 65 million years ago. In 1990 Alan Hildebrand and Glen Penfield identified the Chicxulub crater in the Yucatan peninsula, Mexico, as the possible K-T boundary impact crater13. Discovery of the 180km/110mi diameter crater led to universal acceptance of the impact hypothesis. This has been further strengthened in 2013 by Paul Renne’s high-precision dating technique on tektities14 - pebble shaped rocks formed during meteorite impacts.


    Sankar Chatterjee at Texas Tech University calculated in 2004 the Deccan Traps abruptly began erupting a million years before the Chicxulub impact15. The fact the research points to the Deccan Traps erupting before the Chicxulub impact has led many to conclude one could not be as a result of the other. A million years discrepancy when taken in reference to geological time, when life first began on Earth 4 billion years ago, and present day gives a coincidence correlation of 0.025%. There is a 1 in 4000 chance of those two events occurring at relatively the same moment in relation to the time life has been on this planet. While probability can create anomalies, Paul Renne’s Berkeley Geochronology Center provide more conclusive proof14, dating the impact event tektities to 66.043 million years ago. This is almost a million years earlier than previously thought and brings the impact to exactly to the date the Deccan Traps abruptly began erupting.


    After variations in time, the predominant reason for the Deccan Traps not being connected to the comet impact is the site of the traps is not on the direct opposite side of the world from Chicxulub, Mexico. The Deccan Traps are approximately 5,000km from the antipode of the Chicxulub crater. The Introduction to this paper sited movement of tectonic places over 66 million years as one of the reasons the site could have moved but extensive modeling of this scenario is inconclusive. This is an unsolved problem for antipodal pressure wave research. This theory relies on wherever the comet hit creating vibrations that travel through the Earth’s crust and meeting on the other side of the world creating a lava plume. However, the lava plume must be on the exact opposite side of the world for this to be true.


    The Introduction to this paper touched on another crucial element that has been overlooked: ballistics. When a projectile hits and enters a target the ‘angle of attack’ is crucial in determining the exit point. In the case of a comet hitting and entering a planet angle of attack would have a significant impact on an antipodal ‘exit wound’ lava plume. An angle of attack penetrating the Earth’s crust at exactly vertical, or 90 degrees to the horizon, would create a lava plume on exactly the opposite side of the world. However, this cannot be conclusively proved. The Chicxulub angle of attack, according to L. A. W. Watts, R. Greeley and H. J. Melosh (1991)16, was between 20 and 30 degrees off vertical. In context of the Earth, 20 degrees off vertical would create an exit wound up to 4,800km from an exact antipodal point and 30 degrees would create an exit wound on the other side of the world of up to 7,200km away from an exact antipodal point. Only if the Chicxulub impact entered the Earth’s crust could it have created the Deccan Traps.


    The initial discovery of the Chicxulub crater shifted the focus away from theories involving increased volcanic activity and marine regression. There is clear evidence that sea levels fell dramatically in the final stages of the Cretaceous. The removal of the continental shelf, the most species-rich area of the sea, would have caused mass marine extinction. There is no clear cause for the regression so this paper will not have it as a focus. However, this paper will postulate a link between the impact event and the extreme sea level drop. In 2010 Kevin Pope, Steven D’Hondt and Charles Marshall17 concluded the Chicxulub impact created a dust cloud in the atmosphere that blocked sunlight by 50% for up to a year and created a 7℃ drop in global temperature. Smaller reductions in global temperature have created ice ages and a hypothesis would be an ‘impact winter’ formed after the Chicxulub event. This ‘flash ice age’ quickly formed giant ice sheets, removing large amounts of water from the oceans and led to an extreme drop in sea level.


    Temperature is an important factor to the Earth assassination theory. An asteroid impact on the surface of a planet that vaporizes the extraterrestrial body upon contact creates a “heat pulse” (D. Robertson, 201218) similar to the explosion of a nuclear bomb. On a much larger scale, the surface impact at Chicxulub is calculated to have released 100 million megatons of energy or 8,000 times the power of the Hiroshima bomb. Dr D. Robertson’s 2012 model18 projected the heat pulse from the Chicxulub surface impact baked the atmosphere to 2,700F/1,482C, “igniting every living thing not shielded underground or underwater”.


    The global firestorm theory model was tested in a heat furnace at Exeter University and Dr Claire Belcher’s report19 states “if there were any firestorms they were likely to be local rather than global”. Living plant material was exposed to temperatures similar to a surface impact and conclusively proved not to have been destroyed on a planetary scale. Dr Belcher’s 2015 study is unequivocal the Chicxulub asteroid impact occurred but it did not create a global firestorm. This paper proposes the reason there was no global firestorm is the Chicxulub impact was not a surface impact but one that penetrated into the interior of the Earth.


    As explored in the Introduction, Durand-Manterola and Cordero-Tercero’s work at Cornell University5 points to the Chicxulub impactor in fact being a comet, instead of an asteroid, and a comet with the credibility to penetrate the Earth’s crust to enter the mantle. This creates a simple question: why is there a crater at Chicxulub rather than a hole in the Earth’s crust?


    In ballistics the morphology of an entrance wound is characterized by the following characteristics created after impact: a central defect, a ‘ring of dirt’ and an abrasion ring (Thali et al, 200220). The Chicxulub crater has all of these. A central defect in ballistics is an area formed after impact that corresponds to the diameter of the penetrating projectile. Chicxulub’s inner ring, inside the crater, measures 70km in diameter, similar to Durand-Manterola and Cordero-Tercero’s predictions5. The outer ring at Chicxulub was described in 1978 by Glen Penfield21, the geophysicist who first discovered the crater while working for the Pemex oil company, as 180km across and tangenital to the inner ring. Entrance wounds have abrasion rings that are symmetrical, concentric circles around the central defect and are over twice the size of the projectile entrance.


    The ‘ring of dirt’ in an entrance wound is a depression between the inner, central defect and the outer, abrasion ring created from internal matter exposed during impact. Many meteorite sites have a trough between the inner and outer craters. However, Chicxulub is unique with a lava dome, uncharacteristic of the region’s geology, between the central defect and abrasion ring. Lava domes are created by the slow solidification of viscous lava through exposure over a long period of time. It is the hypothesis of this paper that while the inner and outer craters at Chicxulub could have been created by any meteorite impact, the lava dome is a ballistic ‘ring of dirt’ for the comet’s entry into the Earth’s mantle.


    Projectiles entering objects at high velocities are subject to Newton’s ‘Approximation for Penetration Depth’. An impactor carries a given momentum and to stop this momentum energy must be transferred from the projectile to the impacted object and by the time it stops, the projectile will have penetrated to a depth that is equal to its own length times its relative density with respect to the target material. Newton’s ‘Approximation for Penetration Depth’ is cited as a final reason why a comet could not penetrate the Earth. The comet would be composed of material approximately twice as dense as the mantle and, according to Newton’s approximation, it could not penetrate more than twice its own length of 80km.


    However, modern ballistic research into hypervelocity compact energy missiles discovered very high speeds have a greater penetration potential than mass alone. Modern anti-tank weapons are constructed from high mass material, like depleted uranium that has a similar density to a comet, but it is their speed on impact that determines penetration depth. A K.E.P. (Kinetic Energy Pentrator) made of depleted uranium can pierce tank armour to a depth up to 3 times its length as it is traveling at a hypersonic speed up to 12,000km/h or 3.33km/s. The Chicxulub comet’s impact speed was up to 70km/s. This would give a maximum penetration potential of 60 times its length or 4,800km into the mantle. This hypothesis requires further research but demonstrates a comet could penetrate deep into a planet’s centre.


    Terminal ballistics is the study of projectiles after they have hit their target. The central principle states the more energy that is transferred to the target, the greater destructive potential. The Chicxulub impact was one of the highest energy events ever to occur on our planet. When the comet came to a stop in the mantle all of that energy was directed forward, towards the antipodal side of the planet, in the form of a pressure wave. It is not this paper’s intention to investigate whether this interfered with the Earth’s core. The liquid core generates the natural magnetic field surrounding our planet. Yong Wei, from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, concluded in 2014 the geomagnetic reversal rate doubled at the KT boundary which led to a drop in atmospheric oxygen, another possible reason for the mass extinctions seen at the time22.


    Exit wounds in ballistics are created by the internal pressure wave meeting the opposite point from impact. The pressure wave does not dissipate but focuses directly forward until it reaches the exit point. Here it explodes outwards, most famously in the John F. Kennedy assassination, creating a wound that is much larger than the entrance with an irregular outline and everted edges. Mantle plumes, discovered in 1971 by W. Jason Morgan23, are narrow, rising columns of magma that stream from the outer core, through the mantle and crust, to the surface of our planet. The Hawaiian island chain is the type example that has been continually erupting for many years. The hypothesis of this paper is when the Chicxulub comet penetrated the mantle and slowed to a halt, the massive amount of kinetic energy it was carrying was transferred forward to create one of the largest mantle plumes the planet has experienced as the Deccan Traps.


    The Deccan Traps are one of many flood basalt events, where magma from deep within the mantle has poured out the crust on a continental scale, to have occurred during Earth’s history. The Siberian Traps is a large region of volcanic rock in Siberia, Russia. It was formed by a massive eruptive event, one of the largest volcanic lava flows the world has ever seen, about 250 million years ago at the Permian-Triassic extinction event when approximately 90% of all life died out. The Siberian Traps have been linked to the Wilkes Land crater in Antarctica by Ralph von Frese et al. (2009) through antipodal coincidence24. The theory faces the same challenges as any Chicxulub/Deccan Traps antipodal concept. When ballistics research is utilized the difficulties with a 15 degree misfit for the antipodal location, Markus Fraenz’s revelation of geomagnetic reversals at the same time and less surface impact evidence for the Wilkes Land crater are reduced. Ballistics research supports the von Frese’s Siberian Traps/Wilkes Lane crater antipodal theory and strengthens the proposal that colossal Earth impacts penetrate the planet’s mantle and create giant magma plumes.       



    Evidence for a comet impact at Chicxulub and flood basalt event at the Deccan Traps is well researched. The two incidents occurred at approximately the same time in Earth’s history, 66 million years ago, and were paramount in the K-T mass extinction event or ‘death of the dinosaurs’.
This paper has proposed using ballistics as a further tool in the research regarding both events.


    Ballistics research answers many of the issues surrounding the K-T extinction event and even proposes possible solutions to unanswered problems like geomagnetic reversal.


    It is the conclusion of this research paper that a large comet traveling at extra-hypersonic speed hit and penetrated the Earth’s crust 66 million years ago. The comet traveled into the mantle and when it came to a stop it created a massive energy wave. This giant pulse of energy powered through the centre of the Earth and created a magma plume that exploded out of the planet on the opposite side of the entrance site.


    The Chicxulub comet was, in effect, a bullet entering the skull of the planet and the Deccan Traps were the catastrophic exit wound. The K-T mass extinction was a global assassination.         

Book marks:

1. https://www.lanl.gov/discover/publications/national-security-science/2013-april/_assets/docs/killing-asteroids.pdf
2. https://journals.uair.arizona.edu/index.php/maps/article/view/14975/14946
3. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, vol 202, p 551
4. http://impact.ese.ic.ac.uk/ImpactEffects/
5. https://arxiv.org/abs/1403.6391
6. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2FBF00577875
7. http://charles_w.tripod.com/dweber/mars_volcanos/mars_volcanos2.html
8. http://gsabulletin.gsapubs.org/content/early/2015/04/30/B31167.1.abstract
9. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/2008GC002149/abstract
10. http://earthscience.rice.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Alvarez_K-Timpact_Science80.pdf
11. http://www.icr.org/article/chicxulub-demise-dinosaurs/
12. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/JB091iB01p00653/abstract
13. https://pangea.stanford.edu/courses/ges57/pdf/chicxulub_hildebrand.pdf
14. http://news.berkeley.edu/2013/02/07/new-evidence-comet-or-asteroid-impact-was-last-straw-for-dinosaurs/
15. https://www.jstor.org/stable/4095032
16. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/91JB00308
17. http://www.pnas.org/content/95/19/11028.full.pdf
18. http://www.livescience.com/28582-asteroid-extinction-firestorm.html
19. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/giant-asteroid-unlikely-to-have-created-firestorms-big-enough-to-kill-off-dinosaurs-scientists-say-9996049.html
20. Analysis of patterned injuries and injury-causing instruments with forensic 3D/CAD supported photogrammetry (FPHG): an instruction manual for the documentation process'
21. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/a-tale-of-two-rocks-151643588/
22. http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/d-brief/2014/06/10/earths-magnetic-flips-may-triggered-mass-extinctions/#.WMaFZRBdU7A
23. https://www.e-education.psu.edu/earth520/content/l2_p14.html
24. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/2008GC002149/abstract

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