#GlobalWarming #Earth – 50 million years ago, global warming meant Earth was almost ice free. This could be why… : A comet striking Earth could have triggered a period of global warming that saw Earth almost ice free. Scientists claim to have the first direct evidence of a comet striking Earth around the same time as the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), potentially providing a link between the two events.
The PETM event is known to have taken place around 56 million years ago. It lasted for around 200,000 years and saw global temperatures rise between 5 and 9C.
While scientists know there was a huge injection of carbon into the atmosphere, the cause of the PETM is not known. Suggestions have included a surge in volcanic activity, methane release, changes to ocean circulation and the eruption of a large kimberlite field.
In 2003, Dennis Kent suggested a comet impacting Earth could have triggered PETM. He said magnetised clay particles found in New Jersey could have been altered as the result of such an impact. However, his hypothesis was largely rejected.
Now, Kent and colleagues have published a paper providing further evidence that a comet impacted Earth at roughly the same time as the PETM.
While they do not explicitly claim the comet was responsible for the warming, they suggest it could have played a role – potentially triggering volcanism or shaken loose frozen methane from the seabed, which would in turn account for the huge release of carbon.
Published in the journal Science, researchers discuss the discovery of microtektites – tiny spherical droplets of glass that are believed to form when an extraterrestrial object hits Earth. The impact ejects vaporised material that solidifies mid-air. These were found along the New Jersey coast.