How the darkness and the cold killed the dinosaurs


How the darkness and the cold killed the dinosaurs

66 million years ago, the sudden extinction of the dinosaurs started the ascent of the mammals, ultimately resulting in humankind’s reign on Earth. Climate scientists now reconstructed how tiny droplets of sulfuric acid formed high up in the air after the well-known impact of a large asteroid and blocking the sunlight for several years, had a profound influence on life on Earth. Plants died, and death spread through the food web. Previous theories focused on the shorter-lived dust ejected by the impact. The new computer simulations show that the droplets resulted in long-lasting cooling, a likely contributor to the death of land-living dinosaurs. An additional kill mechanism might have been a vigorous mixing of the oceans, caused by the surface cooling, severely disturbing marine ecosystems.

“The big chill following the impact of the asteroid that formed the crater in Mexico is a turning point in Earth history,” says Julia Brugger from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), lead author of the study to be published today in the Geophysical Research Letters. “We can now contribute new insights for understanding the much debated ultimate cause for the demise of the dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous era.” To investigate the phenomenon, the scientists for the first time used a specific kind of computer simulation normally applied in different contexts, a climate model coupling atmosphere, ocean and sea ice. They build on research showing that sulfur- bearing gases that evaporated from the violent asteroid impact on our planet’s surface were the main factor for blocking the sunlight and cooling down Earth.

In the tropics, annual mean temperature fell from 27 to 5 degrees Celsius

“It became cold, I mean, really cold,” says Brugger. Global annual mean surface air temperature dropped by at least 26 degrees Celsius. The dinosaurs were used to living in a lush climate. After the asteroid’s impact, the annual average temperature was below freezing point for about 3 years. Evidently, the ice caps expanded. Even in the tropics, annual mean temperatures went from 27 degrees to mere 5 degrees. “The long-term cooling caused by the sulfate aerosols was much more important for the mass extinction than the dust that stays in the atmosphere for only a relatively short time. It was also more important than local events like the extreme heat close to the impact, wildfires or tsunamis,” says co-author Georg Feulner who leads the research team at PIK. It took the climate about 30 years to recover, the scientists found.

In addition to this, ocean circulation became disturbed. Surface waters cooled down, thereby becoming denser and hence heavier. While these cooler water masses sank into the depths, warmer water from deeper ocean layers rose to the surface, carrying nutrients that likely led to massive blooms of algae, the scientists argue. It is conceivable that these algal blooms produced toxic substances, further affecting life at the coasts. Yet in any case, marine ecosystems were severely shaken up, and this likely contributed to the extinction of species in the oceans, like the ammonites.

“It illustrates how important the climate is for all lifeforms on our planet”

The dinosaurs, until then the masters of the Earth, made space for the rise of the mammals, and eventually humankind. The study of Earth’s past also shows that efforts to study future threats by asteroids have more than just academic interest. “It is fascinating to see how evolution is partly driven by an accident like an asteroid’s impact – mass extinctions show that life on Earth is vulnerable,” says Feulner. “It also illustrates how important the climate is for all lifeforms on our planet. Ironically today, the most immediate threat is not from natural cooling but from human-made global warming.”


Article: Brugger, J., Feulner, G., Petri, S. (2017): Baby, it’s cold outside: Climate model simulations of the effects of the asteroid impact at the end of the Cretaceous. Geophysical Research Letters [DOI:10.1002/2016GL072241]

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182 thoughts on “How the darkness and the cold killed the dinosaurs

  1. So the big rock that hit the ocean didn’t contribute to the mixing of the ocean?

    Obviously I’m no rocket surgeon but it seems like that would mix water a lot faster and more thoroughly than the mixing that would also occur due to the cooling. Seems the two might even be linked.

      • This is the saddest part of the climate science fiasco.
        Models aren’t bad, but they have been misused. As a result many people are now reflexively rejecting all models, without bothering to think it through.

      • george, total darkness would have only lasted a few weeks. After most of the dust settled out, it would have been more like very heavy clouds for the next few years, gradually returning to normal.

      • “cooler water masses sank into the depths,

        warmer water from deeper ocean layers rose to the surface, carrying nutrients that likely led to massive blooms of algae, the scientists argue.

        It is conceivable that these algal blooms produced toxic substances,”.

        Please leave them PIKs one good trial following 99 errors.

    • The rock hit in the Gulf of Mexico. The Gulf is relatively shallow and there are lots of islands isolating it from the Atlantic and the Pacific. (This was before the isthmus of Panama had closed.)
      The strike would have created a huge tsunami, but away from shores, a tsunami is just a pulse that moves through the water, it doesn’t distrub the water.
      There would have been a huge amount of mixing within a few hundred miles of the impact. Beyond that, much less mixing.

    • There’s those Pesky sulphuric acid droplets again. Damn things make rain drops which becomes acid rain.

      Trouble is, that acid rain is down on the ground; not up in the sky blocking the sun.

      What could possibly be wrong with this picture ??

      Oh ! I see it’s just a computer simulation. Had me worried for a while.

      They need to ask their computer to look for something that stays up there and blocks the sun, but doesn’t make rain drops, which will just wash the gunk away.


      • I could never get past that defect in the nuclear winter scenario. No particles in the upper atmosphere are going to stay for a thousand years. The air is too thin to hold it up. Labeling it global warming/climate change doesn’t alter the fundamental fault.

        PS, I think the way the asteroid impact is thought to have worked was by causing spalling to break large sheets of surface rock off the opposite side of the Earth. This would have opened up gigantic sheets of magma, which would have spewed toxic chemicals out for millennia.

      • So what does the solar spectrum absorption of sulphuric acid look like.

        With the supercooled atmosphere even in the tropics, there aren’t going to be any H2O clouds; it will all rain out. So if the sky is dark, to block solar energy from penetrating the ocean depths and keeping it warm, the sulphuric acid has to be blocking sunlight.

      • Sulfate aerosols in the stratosphere have a much longer residence time due to low dew point and lack of regular mixing. It is stratified..hence the name. Do you recall the Pinatubo sunsets? Same thing.

        I fear major impactors more than anything else. They are out there and most of the research is mom and pop. People doing it on their own, pointing telescopes up to take images with hypered CUDs, then post processing the data with home written software.

    • No mention of the Shiva crater.
      Where did all the sulfur come from?
      Computer models only tell a story derived from the data chosen to go into them.

      • The Chicxulub region is especially rich in gypsum (CaSO4 ·2H2O) and other sulfur-containing minerals

      • No it isn’t. There is some Early Cretaceous anhydrite but not very much. The idea that there is extensive gypsum/anhydrite deposits is due to misinterpreting impact breccias containing excavated anhydrite as being bedded deposits.

    • Quoting article:

      Climate scientists now reconstructed how tiny droplets of sulfuric acid formed high up in the air after the well-known impact of a large asteroid and blocking the sunlight for several years, had a profound influence on life on Earth

      And just how “high up” …….. was “high up in the air”?

      sulfuric acid – H2SO4 — colorless —- soluble in water

      If that large asteroid “impact” occurred in Mexico or the Gulf of Mexico, and it blew tons of particulate into the upper atmosphere, …… just how did sufficient quantities of said “particulate” (H2SO4) manage to get South of the Equator to cause a “blocking” of Sunlight in the Southern Hemisphere?

      Now iffen that asteroid “impact” destroyed 50% to 80% of the CO2 in the atmosphere, then “yup”, that would have caused the demise of the dinosaurs. The large herbivores would have quickly (geologic wise) ran out of food and the large predators would have quickly followed suite.

  2. First thoughts:
    Humankind’s reign??
    I think bacteria and then maybe ants and cockroaches would disagree.

    More thoughts:

    Cold kills. Wamer, meh. not so much.

    It’s obvious to me that 66 Mya this planet was nothing like it is today with continents in different places, maybe lower rotational obliquity extremes, slighlty higher atmospheric pressure.

    66 Mya uncertainties for those factors alone makes drawing any 1-3 deg C climate conclusions about today’s change of 3pp 10,000 CO2 to 4 pp 10,000 quite dubious. Any “scientist” who claims they know with certainty is a charlatan looking for rent money.

      • Second thought, even at 4 parts in 10,000: – to the nearest one tenth of one percent, there is 0 CO2 in the atmosphere.
        Or Loch Ness Monster droppings, of course; this being climate junk science., based on GIGO, as noted.


      • Arguments based on scarcity are doomed to failure (often).

        When a pestilence produces a specific result that is an intrinsic property of that substance, and when the effect takes place at the atomic level, scarcity is no guaranty of immunity.

        Ever wondered why nobody ever seems to mention the capture crossection of a photon; say one in the 87meV energy range.

        How close does a 15 micron photon have to come to a CO2 molecule to get captured ??.

        I have never seen a number for the capture range for any photon by any atom or molecule.

        Maybe there is no such range limit.

        Well electromagnetic fields seem to invade all of space, and don’t seem to have any trouble finding a single CO2 molecule if one is present.

        I don’t know the answer; I’m not a quantum mechanic. But it seems to me that a single CO2 molecule surrounded by about 13 layers of other molecules between it and its nearest CO2 neighbor molecule in the atmosphere, easily finds a 15 micron photon passing by and grabs it.

        So don’t fall into the trap of thinking that one molecule in 2500 can’t do anything.

        The real question is how damaging is the result.

        In MHO the answer is ” virtually inconsequential “.

        Earth is warmed by solar energy reaching the condensed surface, and getting converted to waste heat; the garbage of the energy spectrum.
        Satellites that measure the solar radiation that strikes the upper atmosphere and gets rejected back to space as solar spectrum energy, cannot tell us how much of the remaining solar spectrum energy makes it to the condensed surface and converted to heat.

        Fortunately there is an exquisite world wide measuring system that measures the total amount of solar spectrum energy that reaches the condensed surface and is converted to heat.

        The common acronym for that system is …… EARTH …..

        Yes the planet itself captures the solar energy that reaches the surface and is not simply reflected by materials that are unable to absorb 100% of it.

        The effect of that energy converted to heat is to establish the Temperature of those absorbing materials.

        According to Kevin Trenberth, the total amount of that heat generated never changes, and he is embarrassed that they can’t find any change in the earth’s heat content.

        The Argo buoys seem to confirm that result.

        Evidently the cloud feedback is quite effective in maintaining the heat content of the condensed earth.


  3. Fuelner’s last sentence ensured he got paid by one of the many funds specifically set up to reward papers that warn humankind of the treat of global warming. Otherwise a very interesting paper.

    • I have yet to see a mass extinction from a 2-4 degree temp change….yet this piece of work compares global warming to mass extinctions

      And they wonder why people aren’t paying attention any more

      • Julian Ironically today, the most immediate threat is not from natural cooling but from human-made global warming.”
        They base their extension theory on a 24 C drop in temp. and then in the last sentence throw it out the window! It is flawed.

    • “Climate” is important to every lifeform on the planet. Gee, who knew? Let’s contemplate life without “climate”, or the sound of one hand clapping, or other impossible things.

  4. An asteroid killed the dinosaurs, and yet what we find in the fossil record are billions and billions of dead animals, laid down suddenly in water and waterborne sediments over the whole earth, animals with food still in their mouths? This all happened tens and hundreds of millions of years ago, and yet soft tissue is regularly found in dinosaur fossils? Evolution is true, and yet cannot begin to explain the highly complex and specified information found in every living cell?

    Right. I have beautiful real estate in South Florida for sale, by the way. Always perfect temperature, pleasant and safe.

    • I wonder what Noah had against the dinosaurs. Surely there was room on the ark for some of the smaller ones.

    • Dean,

      what you wrote is objectively wrong. “Animals with food still in there mouth,” really?! And Soft tissue is not “regularly found in dinosaur fossils.” Then you break off into a non-sequiter on cellular complexity. Get a grip man. Your faith in magic is showing.

    • Dean,

      That animals died while eating and were then fossilized is no reason to imagine a global flood covering the highest mountains, which is a physical impossibility. Such an inundation would require more than three times the surface water on earth today. Where did it come from and where did it go?

      There is no global flood in the geologic record. Of course local floods occurred, and over four billion years, sea level has changed markedly repeatedly. But fossils sort by age, not by size, as would happen if they were deposited all at once, with Precambrian, Paleozoic, Mesozoic and Cenozoic plants, animals, fungi and microbes all intermixed. How did Australian and oceanic island land animals get to Noah’s area of operation? How could the millions to tens of millions of animal species alive now, let alone the hundreds of millions to billions of extinct species fit on the arc? How could a few humans care for so many animals? To mention but a few problems with taking the biblical flood myth as reality.

      Soft tissue fossilization is rare, found very irregularly, but it does confirm that birds are dinosaurs, a fact already known from every other sort of evidence.

      Evolution is the only possible scientific explanation for the genetic information found in cells. In fact, comparing the genomes of organisms helps work out evolutionary relationships, along with fossils, embryology, comparative anatomy, biogeography, physiology and every other line of evidence.

      • Maybe the plants regres from seeds, but in the meantime, what did the herbivores eat once off the arc? All vegetation would have been dead a year or however long it took for the flood waters to recede.

      • Folks, Dean seems to be referring Noah allegorically, since the Biblical Noah lived a mere 6000 years ago or so, but Dean is referring to events that by his own words were “tens and hundreds of millions of years ago”. Don’t get so excited by the mere possibility that someone is using a biblical reference. To do so only shows your overweening prejudice against mention of a Biblical reference. Like the folks who go bonkers at the mere mention of models. Models are very useful, but as is clear in AGW, they can also be (ab)used to prove any damn thing.

      • Kook,

        It’s obvious that Dean actually believes that the flood myth in the Bible really happened.

        His comment isn’t just a biblical reference, but a scientific impossibility.

  5. “. . . sulfur- bearing gases that evaporated from the violent asteroid impact . . .” Is this even quantifiable? And can the amount of sulfur in the atmosphere both pre and post asteroid event be reliably known? Nice idea, but the assumption dials ranges need mentioning.

  6. I note that the killer cold does not show up in the do18 isotope data and the CO2 shows nothing.

    The issue that is not talked about enough is what happens when all that ejecta blasted into orbit returns as meteorites back to Earth. The calculations show that it would have heated up the atmosphere to 300C or more and everything that could catch fire, did indeed catch fire, dinosaurs included. Ocean temperatures got to crazy numbers as well. You needed to be in some safe place like a mine or a burrow or a lucky sheltered ocean cove or the deep ocean to survive this pyre.

    • Nice idea Bill, but where’s the spike in CO2 from all that burning? Or the dO18 from the killer heat? If “Killer cold” doesn’t show up; the same argument says “killer heat” doesn’t show up either. You can’t have it both ways.

      Of course, the counter argument to both is – the duration of the cold/hot period was too short to show up in the usual proxies. On that graph, 800 pixels represent 55 my so 30 years would be 4.4E-4 pixels wide.

    • Bill, maybe 30 years is too short to be resolved in the isotope data from that far back? Is there a layer of ash from all the fires? I haven’t read about one. My guess is that intense atmospheric heat, enough to cause fires, was probably limited to less that 10% of the earth’s surface. Since heat rises quickly, most of the heat would be aloft. Fires may also have been generated by lots of hot rocks and boulders falling back to the earth hundreds or even thousands of miles from the impact, although I’m not sure there is evidence for this.

    • There were huge tropical forests, giant sequoas everywhere, high levels of CO2 which made everything grow huge. The plants generated high levels of O2 so it was pretty easy for everything to firestorm.

    • Surely there is an obvious spike in the sulfate amounts in the fossils. Very acidic rain. There would have to be at least a spike in fossils of fresh water mollusc’s.

      • But – but . . . . the drop from IIRC pH 8.2 to pH 8.0 [both decidedly base] has got the true believers’ knickers in a terrific twist.
        All the sea-things will die by next Tuesday or some such nonsense, if I read their tragic please for more money correctly.
        Much more grant money [and global control] needed to untwist them, it appears!

        mods – /Sarc.
        Just in case . . . . .

        Auto – still near the good French wine.

      • Fat Finger.
        Please – ‘pleas’ – [or was it the dreaded Autocorrect?]. Sorry.
        It is true that it is very hard to proof-read your own work.

        Auto corrected.
        And outside a glass of French red wine.

    • Umm.. yes there is an increased amount of fusain (=soot) in post-impact layers, but it isn’t possible to say whether from huge fires immediately after the impact, or from dead, dry forests burning down over a few decades.

  7. Plenty of dinosaurs evolved into modern birds, also many type of crocodiles and lizards are still here today

    • “Plenty of dinosaurs evolved into modern birds…”

      Huh? How could anyone [possibly know such a thing?

      (Evolution theory evolved into climate change theory, me thinks ; )

      • Foot structure? Mammals have five digits. Even horses although they are all combined into a hoof. Bats and whales too. But birds? Well, Silky chickens have polydactyl traits…but so do some inbred domestic cats and people. One cannot use exceptions on genetic traits to prove evolution. Still the oviviparous nature of birds is a good clue of their origin. And precocious- atricial split was also seen in dinosaurs.

      • Science can conclude with high confidence that birds are dinosaurs because that’s what the evidence shows.

        The only argument that a few ornithologists had against the overwhelming evidence for dino origins and for the forlorn hope that birds might descend from archosaurs close to dinosaurs rather than from maniraptoran theropod dinosaurs had to do with their fingers, but that problem has been solved.

      • Keith,

        Birds, like their maniraptoran dinosaur kin, have three fingers, down from the original five in Triassic dinos. Two are usually fused in birds, but the first digit or alula (little wing), is feathered and movable, to act as a leading edge slat at high angles of attack.

        As among the smallest dinos, birds had the best shot at survival, but only those with toothless beaks made it through the catastrophe. This might be because they ate seeds.

    • The birds were most likely already there. It’s not all that clear to me what the difference is between a feathered dinosaur and a bird. But there were pretty clearly feathered critters that could fly for many tens of millions of years before the KT extinction event.

      • Yes, birds had already evolved from their maniraptoran dino ancestors long before the K/T extinction. Most birds were also wiped out at that time, but the previously minor group of modern birds survived.

        The distinctions between birds and their maniraptoran kin are few. There are various definitions of “bird”, but clade Aves requires a beak, keeled sternum and tail bones fused into a pygostyle (parson’s nose). Teeth are optional. Modern birds lack them but many of their Cretaceous kin still sported hen’s teeth.

      • Don K
        January 14, 2017 at 1:16 am

        Indeed it is fairly arbitrary as to where you draw the line between feathered dinobird and ‘bird’. Some dinobirds could glide or even fly under power and some birds had already lost the ability to fly by 66 million years ago, like the seabird Hesperornis.

        Here’s a cladogram of the dinobirds, showing the shared derived traits of various groups:

    • Martin,
      Are crocs and lizards ‘dino-aves-type’ creatures?
      We also have tortoises, turtles and tuataras [What a Rock Band name?!??] – but they, too, I suggest are not the fast growing, warm-blooded types that are in Class Dinoaves.

      Auto, a fascinated reader of Robert Bakker’s ‘The Dinosaur Heresies,book from 1986.

      • Auto,

        Crocs and birds (plus other dinosaurs and pterosaurs) belong to the group of reptiles called archosaurs. Lizards, snakes and tuataras are lepidosaurs. The position of turtles was controversial until genetic studies showed them more closely related to archosaurs.

  8. Disclaimer- I haven’t read this paper. Buuuuttt… The way the output movie looks, it would appear that they did not actually model the sulfate being sourced from the impact point. They seem to have just dumped the change onto the atmosphere, via simulation magic. Even in an event of this magnitude, I would expect a significant NH vs SH bias. I’m a little skeptical…

  9. “Ironically today, the most immediate threat is not from natural cooling but from human-made global warming.””

    Always have to bow to the gods of globull warming to keep the grant money coming in.
    In fact they are totally wrong on that one. Cooling is the greater threat and when our inter-glacial ends …..

    • ” … the most immediate threat is not from natural cooling but from human-made global warming.”

      If he is correct (which doubt), and the MOST immediate threat is from human-made global warming, I don’t have to worry about anything and I can sleep tonight.

      If he is wrong, then I need to cut more fire wood. It’s almost noon, the sun is shinning, blue skys in all directions, its almost up to 32 degrees, And it’s gonna be this way for a while longer (I need to cut more fire wood even if he is right).

  10. The Dinosaur lived then died during extreme cold temperatures which preserved his bones as they were laid to rest in the earth

    Sunlight came back and gave the earth warmth life and growth

    Born of that the trees waters and bones began its new transformation

  11. And to think that sulfate aerosols are one of the proposed geoengineering methods for “curing” supposedly anthropogenic global warming.

  12. Some questions with this statement:
    “While these cooler water masses sank into the depths, warmer water from deeper ocean layers rose to the surface, carrying nutrients that likely led to massive blooms of algae, the scientists argue.”

    Present-day abyssal ocean temperatures remain very cold, fed by cold hypersaline water descending to the depths and toward the equator primarily from Antarctica. If this process existed back then (note cold poles
    shown in animation), then deep ocean layers would have been colder, not warmer.

    Equatorial water disturbed by the comet would have to be denser than polar water to penetrate the pycnocline (density-cline) do the hypothesized convection.

    • ” If this process existed back then (note cold poles shown in animation), then deep ocean layers would have been colder, not warmer.”

      It did not. The very cold deep ocean only started during the Early Oligocene, about 35 million years ago, when Antarctica first became fully glaciated and production of cold arctic bottom water also started. Before that the deep oceans were much warmer. At the K/Pg-boundary Antarctica had a cold-temperate climate and was forested along the coasts, though there were probably icecaps inland.

  13. The reflected solar rays would seriously impact oceanic recharge, leaving an ocean starved for heat for a long time, setting up clear sky conditions and net absorption. Net absorption, while serving to recharge ocean heat, leaves land cold. That is until the oceans switch over to net evaporation, belching that heat out to warm the land and green things up with concomitant humidity.

    The proposal seems reasonable.

  14. “It also illustrates how important the climate is for all lifeforms on our planet. Ironically today, the most immediate threat is not from natural cooling but from human-made global warming”.
    W. C. Fields allegedly said something along the lines of ‘the world is a dangerous place, we’ll all be lucky to get out of it alive’.
    Below a CO2 concentration of ~150 ppm everything is dead; comparing the climate and CO2 records in deep time to the more detailed relatively recent past of 500,000 years, it looks like a series of last rallies or last gasps, a planet in it’s death throws maybe melodramatically rescued at the last moment.

    • This is something I’ve been wondering for awhile. Life consumes and stores co2, All the fossil fuels. all the coal, all the chalk, etc, is trapped Co2. The logical consequence seems to be that without intelligent life to modify the trend the planet would eventually reach a level where life as we know it would die off.

      If that theory could be shown to be viable, then would it not make sense for the benefit off life on this planet for us to increase the levels as high as we can, giving the world a few more hundreds of millions of years of potential as a life bearing globe?

      • Why assume there were no intelligent dinosaurs at that time? We have still only dug up a fraction of the species that existed. There could have been an entire civilization present. No building materials would have survived over 100s of millions of years.

      • Stone building materials last about as long as stone, and in any case would have been buried. Plus, the Mesozoic ended only 66 Ma, not hundreds of millions of years ago.

        There were no non-avian dinosaurs as intelligent as the smartest mammals and birds today. But some were scarily smart enough.

  15. I saw this in a movie once. These guys had to blow up an asteroid and Bruce Willis saved the world….

  16. Quote: … likely … might …

    Once upon a time any scientist reviewing such a paper would have said something like “come back to us when you know what you are talking about”. On second thoughts scientists still do, but not everybody who claims to be a scientist is entitled to use that title.

    Those of you at the educational coal face, please keep trying to restore science to its former good name.

  17. It took the climate about 30 years to recover, the scientists found.

    Further proof that climatic feedbacks are net negative. If the cagw theory were true, the sudden drop in temperatures would have led to a decrease in CO₂ and an increase in albedo, which would have led to runaway global cooling.

  18. I wonder why it is that climate scientists feel the need to make fools of themselves. They are drawn to half baked theory like rats to garbage.
    With apologies to said rodents.

  19. Lucius hits a really important point about the dangerous ideas in the AGW community about attempting planet “engineering” to combat alleged human induced global warming. Some time back it was even seriously suggested by someone who should be given his own padded room with only plastic knives and forks that we should fire thousands of small mirrors into orbit so as to reduce the amount of solar radiation entering the atmosphere. As a piece of complete deranged madness I think this is possibly the most dangerous idea I have heard in this whole AGW saga.
    Apart from screwing around with something that may be completely beyond our ability to fully understand for a long time to come and possibly sending us into a permanent snowball Earth, the least hugely damaging result would have been to jeopardise astronomy and space research from Earth’s surface. Yet as I recall the idea received plaudits in some newspapers.
    The whole dinosaur extinction debate seems to resolve around which way people prefer to kill off the dinosaurs, personally I think most of the various bits of evidence came together to cod the job and few are mutually exclusive. I see no reason why the massive impact should not have set off the extreme volcanic activity of the Deccan traps. I know there is an objection on the grounds of the radioactivity dating that these two events are linked, but this makes me wonder about how accurate we can really be with something that happened about 65 may.
    But of course we know that the dinosaurs really died out because they smoked too many cigarettes.

  20. Do not cod – must stop worrying about the local tidal surge predicted to wash up on my lawn that never happened last night.

    • Just another exercise in creating panic in the population. When there really was a disaster in the UK and all those poor people in Somerset got flooded out of their homes, or trapped in them, they didn’t roll the army out for weeks on end to rescue them. This time round, they made a big show of deploying the troops for an event that didn’t happen, and they probably knew it wouldn’t happen. They just want to get people used to seeing troops about the place. Is this part of the bigger picture of preparing us all for Martial Law, or am I just being paranoid?

    • Ahhh, The Precautionary Principle taken to the far end of the bell curve.

      At least not like 1953. That, tragically, left hundreds dead in England, and nearly 2000 dead in the Netherlands.
      From the fount of all wisdom, Wikipedia, which even a bum-boatie like me can edit:
      “After the 1953 flood, governments realised that similar infrequent but devastating events were possible in the future”

      Precautionary principle is prime, when practically placed and positively pursued.

      Auto, agreeably alliterative. Arguably!

  21. Their map. Has any one checked some of the maps guessed at for the KT event. Theirs don’t look right. How do you model the KT event without a realistic map. I am not nitpicking.
    What is the ocean heights that the T- waves will travel through post impact. Will the T-waves drown out the flash fires.
    If that is the map they are in fact using for their model , then they have wasted time and resources.


  22. What Ice Caps?

    There were no ice caps at this time as the the earth’s evrage temperature was around 25C.

    If they have used their GCM for this “prediction” the only thing that is certain is that it will be wrong.

  23. Dinosaurs are a hoax.. just like the climate change.. They never existed.. Do some real research on it just as forensic as looking into climate change

    [???? Dinosaurs are real. I know. I have seen pictures and movies of dragons. .mod]

    • Groaner,

      Missing sarc tag?

      Dinosaurs are real. They’ve been around for about 235 million years. Before that there were archosaurs very similar to them.

      Dinosauria is a superorder, containing two orders. Ornithischia, with such plant-eaters as Stegosaurus, Iguanodon, hadrosaurs, Ankylosaurus and Tricerotops, went extinct at the end of the Cretaceous. Saurischia, includes the extinct, giant, herbivorous sauropods in one suborder and the mostly meat-eating, bipedal theropods in another. Theropods still exist in the form of birds.

      • NOT.. Who teaches this crap in schools, colleges. The curriculum is headed by Zionists. The science is bogus.. The fossils are all planted then found ONLY by paleontologists who pay to have them create them, and make up how old they are.. Its a big business, just like Global warming nonsense. Follow the money.. Its alll about money and power.. and then more money and power.

      • Groaner,

        Still missing a sarc tag.

        I can assure you that not all paleontologists are Zionists, not that their opinions about Israel matter in the least. Paleontology isn’t the only science demonstrating extinct species.

        The first dinosaur fossil was found by a priest in the Church of England.

        Besides dinosaurs, millions of other extinct plants and animals have been found.

        The earth is over 4.5 billion years old, and species go extinct all the time. Some leave behind fossils before doing so.

    • Salvatore,
      Megafauna became extinct in Australia a good bit earlier – maybe – IIRC – 26,000 years as a median. Ish!

      Coincidence is not causation.

      But the Americas – Clovis, about 12-11 KYA; and Australia c. 26 KYA – appear to also be the emergence/import of a big game hunter technology.
      And in NZ much more recently, no evidence of extinctions 11 KYA, but also Maori arrival, with modest hunting technologies and very, very naïve fauna; about [late?] thirteenth century AD. The moas perished pretty quickly, perhaps by 1400 AD; a very few possible (“claimed”) sightings from the Nineteenth century [IIRC] and that was that.

      Climate, too, was changing, with affects on sea level, etc.
      Possibly pathogens, too, were introduced.

      Coincidence is not causation.

      No substantial impact. Agreed. Even Barringer/Meteor Crater was about 50 KYA.
      The Kamil crater, within the last ‘5,000 years’, involved an iron meteorite of 5-10 tonnes [estimates from the fabled Wikipedia].
      And Tunguska was last century.


  24. I wonder why the Bible didn’t even mention dinosaurs? I asked this question to a pastor once and he got mad at me for it. I wonder why?

    • Cliff: You are a troublemaker. There were no dinosaurs left (except for the birds) when the bible was written.

      • How am I a trouble maker? Because I ask questions? It’s painfully obvious the authors of the bible were completely unaware dinosaurs had ever existed. Liberty University has on their campus dinosaur fossils they claim are less than 5k years old. lol

      • Cliff,
        My birdfeeder has dino-aves, living, less than 5,000 hours old, I suspect.
        Certainly less than 5,000 days!
        And we get parakeets.


      • “It’s painfully obvious the authors of the bible were completely unaware dinosaurs had ever existed.”

        Some authors of the Bible gave a pretty good description of the way creation unfolded. They wrote that in the beginning, the universe, was “without form and void” (a soup of protons, neutrons and electrons) and God said, “Let their be light”, and there was light (the point that the universe went from being totally opaque, to transparent, about 300,000 years after the Big Bang). A pretty good description of the initial stage of the universe, it sounds like to me.

        Maybe authors of the Bible knew more than you think they did.

      • TA
        January 14, 2017 at 8:32 pm

        Actually the description of creation in Genesis 1 & 2 and everywhere else in the Bible bears no resemblance whatsoever to what has been observed of the origin of the universe, or even of everyday occurrences.

        The first creation myth in Genesis starts with the breath of God moving over the waters, not with a hot, dense singularity. Whence came the waters?

        In that story, there are night and day before there is a sun, which when finally made, is to serve as a marker, not as the source of daylight, while the moon is to mark the night. Nor in the Bible does the earth spin on its axis nor orbit the sun. It is immobile, with foundations and pillars. It’s also flat and covered by a solid dome, upon which God walks and operates the levers of the storehouses of snow, rain and other precipitation. The sun, by contrast does however move over the earth, before returning to the place of his rising (outside the vault of heaven, from which stars hang which are in danger of falling to earth).

      • Fossils were however known to prescientific Bible authors–the ‘giants in the earth’. Just as mammoth skulls inspired the Cyclops of Greek myth, so did megafauna fossils inspire the biblical giants.

    • Its a lie,, along with evolution… a hoax.. this whole system is so anti God, what is true is false, what is false is true.. bad for good.. Armageddon is coming soon, all the liars will not be around much longer.

      • You mean that the creationist liars who blaspheme God by calling Him cruel, deceptive and incompetent are going to be wiped out?

  25. ******** “It also illustrates how important the climate is for all lifeforms on our planet. Ironically today, the most immediate threat is not from natural cooling but from human-made global warming.” *********

    What cod-swallow…the paper purports to theorize via modeling (a tool that has served only the delusional warmists), that extreme cooling (ie 21C drop) killed off most living organisms at that time. One could only interpret this as COLD kills. But then a specious statement is made, under the guise of irony, that man-made warming is an immediate threat. A most ponderous interpretation. I submit the authors are trying to hedge further funding opportunities (ie the paper discusses that cold is a significant issue AND the throw-away warmists rhetoric sentence).

  26. More PIK fairy tales. The Chixulub impact could have caused a shortived ‘impact winter’ from ejecta. It could not have caused a sulfate winter as Yucatan rock doesn’t contain any, nor do studied bolides. The Deccan traps may or may not be associated with the impact; they were not diametrically opposite at time of impact. But even if so, all previous studies had Deccan aerosol cooling of at most 2C. Reason is flood basalt eruptions do not have sufficient VEI for anything to reach the stratosphere where it can be long lived (<3 years); anything else washes out in less than a month.

    • Actually there is some Early Cretaceous anhydrite in Yucatan, but not that much. And while flood basalt eruptions on a large scale do have some impact on climate (e. g. Laki 1783), their main biotic effect is quite possibly mostly through direct toxicity, as also seen during the Laki eruption (which was actually a quite small one, as flood basalts go).
      And a really large flood basalt eruption could very likely “punch through” into the stratosphere by simple thermal convection, like large tropical thunderstorms sometimes do.

  27. There almost certainly was a dark, cold interval after the Chicxulub impact, but it almost as certainly didn’t last for years, more likely weeks or at most months.

    There are several indications for this. Organisms living in lakes and rivers survived much better than any others, which suggests that the thermal inertia of these relatively small water bodies was sufficient to give partial protection.

    Extinctions in oceans were probably due to loss of primary production (phytoplankton), which are microscopic and will be eliminated by even a few days darkness. It is interesting to note that every species of ammonites died out while the closely related nautiloids survived. Ammonites had small eggs which hatched almost immediately. Nautiloids have large eggs which float around for a couple of months before hatching. Apparently by the time they hatched the oceans had recovered enough for at least some of the larvae to survive.

    Actually we don’t know nearly enough about the atmosphere and climate to make any detailed predictions about the effect of such a huge impact. As already noted the debris from the impact falling back would have heated the stratosphere very intensely, and nobody knows enough to predict what happens when you inject large quantities of rock vapour, sulfur etc into the stratosphere and heat it to very high temperature. Particularly since the effect would be geographically heterogenous. This applies both to the chemistry and to atmospheric circulation/climate. Whatever happened was probably quite nasty though.

    There is also strong indications that the main eruptive phase of the Deccan Traps happened right after the Chicxulub impact, and it is quite possible that there is a causal link. It is well established that earthquakes can trigger volcanic eruptions, and this was the largest earthquake for at least half a billion years, by several orders of magnitude.

  28. It has long puzzled me that the dinosaurs (including marine dinosuars such as plesiosaurs) became extinct whilst the fish,(including sharks), crocodiles and alligators, birds and mammals survived. The evidence of a meteor impact conciding with the extinction event is strong. But the apparent selection of species that died out seems skewed. Purely as a speculative hypothesis could a new pathogen, either evolving from ones alrerady present on earth or carried from outer space account for the death of dinosaurs and ammonites rather than a change to climate that would have killed off other genera?

  29. As I wrote above, freshwater organisms (such as crocodilians) survived reasonably well. Ocean organisms were much more affected, including marine reptiles (there never was any marine dinosaurs). Deep-ocean taxa (which are only indirectly dependent on primary production) survived much better than shallow-water organisms.

    And fishes, mammals and birds very largely did not survive. For example there is now a pretty good fossil record of Cretaceous birds, and almost none of them survived. All 10,000 species of birds today comes from a very few (perhaps as little as five or six) closely related species from a single (and up till then rather unimportant) branch of the bird phylogenetic tree.

    “could a new pathogen, either evolving from ones alrerady present on earth or carried from outer space account for the death of dinosaurs and ammonites”

    Extremely unlikely. Such a pathogen would have to affect some (but not all), species of practically every phylum, including plants, and work both on land, in fresh water and in the oceans and from the tropics to the poles.

    • It may be that runoff cleared the streams and lakes quickly, while dumping the detritus of massive, widespread fires into the shallow waters of the continental shelves. The decomposition of the organic matter would have depleted the oxygen, adding one more stress to the shallow ocean ecosystem. This would explain why the fresh water species survived while related marine organisms died.

      While the initial event was clearly the impact, the rest of the chain of events would have been quite complex, and no doubt vary dependent on location. I’d expect a combination of pure random survival of the impact, followed by ability to survive the recovery period, followed by the ability to adapt and thrive in the new normal.

      • There is indeed some evidence for widespread dysoxic conditions in deep oceans just after the Chicxulub impact.

    • With the high temperatures released by the impact, rather than pathogens could some other toxic gas be produced.
      ‘Nitric oxide is formed from nitrogen and oxygen by the action of electric sparks or high temperatures’
      NO comes to mind as it may disorientate dinosaurs, well it does this to birds, no controlled testing possible.
      When an animal is sedated by this gas it loses the ability to seek heat,shiver or be thirsty or hungry.
      Death would follow in a matter of a day or two, well within the winter hypothesis for this asteroid strike.
      Perhaps it, when dissolved in sea water, did the same to Ammonites, disorienting them, making them easy prey, because they were unable to swim.

      • Sorry, was thinking of ‘laughing gas’.
        Perhaps that is formed too?
        NO though is toxic to DNA, so could have precipitated cell death immediatly and long term breeding failure.
        Nitric oxide and peroxynitrite can also induce DNA strand breaks (Salgo et al., 1995b), which can be prevented by superoxide dismutase or nitric oxide-trapping agents (Epe et al., 1996). DNA single-strand breakage has been reported in intact cells exposed to peroxynitrite, indicating that peroxynitrite has the ability to enter cells and to induce nuclear changes (Salgo et al., 1995a). Possible responses include initiation of DNA repair and/or cell death by necrosis or apoptosis. These findings elicit concern regarding reactive intermediates that may be formed in the extracellular milieu of the lungs of patients during the administration of inhaled nitric oxide.

    • “As I wrote above, freshwater organisms (such as crocodilians) survived reasonably well. ”

      An excellent post. To add to it,I’d like to point out that years ago, paleontologist Laurie Bryant did her doctoral thesis on survival rates of lower tetrapods across the K-T extinction, using data from the Hell Creek and Tullock formations in Montana — one of the very few places on Earth that preserves a good land fossil record from just before and just after the extinction. Bryant found that she could identify members of 25 amphibian, reptile, and crocodilian families in the Hell Creek Formation… and that 24 of them also appeared in the Tullock and/or later Cenozoic rocks, meaning that they clearly survived the extinction. A drastic difference from the 100% extinction rate among dinosaurs, or the high extinction rates among mammals and birds. Two possible explanations for this are that the extinction agent was size-specific, killing all tetrapods above a certain body mass, or that it was metabolism-related, preferentially killing warm-blooded organisms. Neither of these is really consistent with the ‘asteroid winter’ scenario…. or with any other hypothesis I’ve ever heard.

  30. As a geologist I’ve seen the popularity of the asteroid impact theory wax and wane over the years. Certainly in happened at the right time, and so did the Deccan eruptions, at least in part, but the biggest problem is puzzle pieces that just don’t fit. Here they feel they have explained the death of the dinosaurs, but they have ignored the survival of birds (just one example). Birds are now almost universally accepted as dinosaurs, not able to hide away in holes or somewhere, yet here they are. But some birds became extinct, as did some mammals, lizards, insects and plants. Others, that seemingly must have been their neighbors, survived. The patterns are very hard to explain. It suggests to me that the event was probably more complex than any of the theories that have attempted to explain it.

    • D
      + several.

      It was a long time ago. We have some information – but do we have enough?

      The impact [asteroid; comet; meteorite; Godzilla; giant sperm whale, per Pratchett; whatever] theory does tick some boxes.
      Agreed we probably don’t have all the tesserae of the mosaic.

      I think that those we have suggest that the Yucatan impact was significant.
      Was it the only factor??
      I don’t know, but I suggest not . . . . . . .

      And I am human, so most certainly I can be wrong.

      And much mileage in this for grants – I suggest.


    • Seed-eating toothless birds survived.

      Not such a mystery, IMO.

      Good explanations exist for why some groups survived and others didn’t.

  31. One thing I expected to see referenced with respect to a huge impact would be a corresponding impact from volcanism. I would think with that much force being exerted on the mantle, it would push magma/lava out of volcanoes like squeezing pimples across the globe. Just sayin,,,,,,,,,

  32. This is a hypothesis: a computer program plus unsupported speculation.

    The entire paper should have been about the results of a modeling exercise and a call for oxygen isotope and rare element work to determine if the model had validity.

    So much for real science

    • Diug,
      This is post-fact Climate “Science”
      Do revisit your expectations, please.

      Auto, sad that that is necessary.

  33. Here is your homework.

    Assuming you believe that and asteroid hit 66 million years ago — all you have after all is traces that can be explained by assuming an asteroid hit, you don’t actually have eyewitness data..

    Assuming you believe this..


    1. The evolution of temperature
    2. Changes to the atmosphere
    3. Changes to the Ocean
    4. Impacts on life forms.

    Describe the tool or method you would use.

    When you have submitted your work and demonstrate you understand, then your opinion of other folks solutions will be added to the reading list.

  34. Whatever the Chicxulub impact did to life or not, it at least gave use blue pectolite, or Larimar. Reminds me of a blue sky with clouds.

  35. I love the idea of a Marlboroughsaurus and I am solidly with DLong that we don’t have anything like a sufficiently good understanding of why some species went out and others didn’t- in fact we struggle with this on the Mega Fauna extinction, let alone the demise of the dinosaurs 65 mya.
    I might mention, in case anyone is not familiar with it, the crocodiles in the Sahara desert who have survived since North Africa dried up about 10,000 years ago by burrowing down into long tunnels and going into a stasis until the annual wet season which gives them about eight weeks of shallow water ponds to do the business before hunkering down for another year.
    Presumably the crocodilians survived because they were able to do something similar when the
    KT impactor hit and there would have plenty of dead carcasses for a while to keep them going.
    It gets more problematic with highly active species that depend on getting food every day, especially if there really was more than one impactor and the debris that rained back from atmosphere and space was even greater than just the Chicxulub strike alone. It is precisely because of all these complexities that we should reject one off solutions, despite the modern tendency to believe everything can be simplified to one cause, like CO2 being the invention of Satan apparently for example.

  36. Whatever killed the dinosaurs didn’t kill all the birds all the turtles, all the lizards & crocodiles. Something killed them all but didn’t kill all the mammals or amphibians. Monotremes and marsupials also survived and so did all the fish, snails, worms, not to mention all the insects and spiders.

    In other words whatever killed T Rex and all his close taxonomic relatives was very selective to get every single last one. There aren’t any monotypic dinosaurs like the coelacanth or gingko tree left for us to study. Nope, they are ALL gone. What sort of an event would single out a whole class of animals like that?

    Darkness and cold? Hmm some of the frogs toads and salamanders survived, why not some the dinosaurs?

    Well enough of the stage setting, disease could have done it. Biological agents can be selective. There are plenty of articles about the chytrid fungus that today threatens amphibians and super bugs might threaten humanity. Our friends in academia seem to only consider the physical environment such as climate change because that is in vogue. Evolution is a sacred cow that couldn’t possibly unleash a biological agent so deadly because only an evil human science could do that.

    • A biohazard that kills both animals and plants (yes there was fairly extensive plant extinctions as well), and is effective both on land, in fresh water and in oceans?

      • A biohazard that kills both animals and plants (yes there was fairly extensive plant extinctions as well), and is effective both on land, in fresh water and in oceans?

        Sort of a super bug that dinosaurs never developed a resistance to. The chytrid fungus
        is rampaging through the amphibians. Will it kill them all. Will all the frogs toads and sallymanders join
        T Rex and his cousins in a mass extinction?

  37. Some, a very few, “dinosaurs” did survive – just not the big ones we all like. And that’s not including the birds, an argument we don’t need to restart here. I’m not not a fan of the disease or genetic exhaustion (whatever that is) ideas simply because a few individuals usually survive biological vectors and produce new immune populations – but we just don’t really know. Sharks did OK, but Icythiosaurs didn’t. More questions than answers…

    • There is no valid argument against the classification of birds as dinosaurs, unless you know of one undiscovered by paleontologists.

  38. Oh and just a really interesting example – dragonflies survived! A really environmentally delicate species if ever there was one makes it across several extinction events, including the big one, and continues to flourish today all over the world (OK not counting Antarctica and the Arctic then) .

    • Insects are virtually immune to mass extinctions. Species go extinct, yes, but not higher level taxa. There are simply too many insects in too many places.Some always survive in some cranny somewhere.

      The Permo/Triassic extinction is the big exception, it killed off eight or nine Insect Orders. Only three have gone extinct in the 250 000 000 yers since then, and none at all in the last 100 000 000 years.

      By the way, dragonflies do occur in the Arctic. There is even a species that only lives in tundra habitat Somatochlora alpestris.

  39. Don’t you love how the author lays out this interesting story, and only at the last couple sentences does he mess it up with:

    “It is fascinating to see how evolution is partly driven by an accident like an asteroid’s impact – mass extinctions show that life on Earth is vulnerable,” says Feulner. “It also illustrates how important the climate is for all lifeforms on our planet. Ironically today, the most immediate threat is not from natural cooling but from human-made global warming.”

    So, we envision this huge asteroid wiping out much life, and then we juxtapose this image with much life being wiped out by CO2.

    Asteroid impact = planet frying because of CO2. That’s a sneaky and distorted implied analogy.

    • Please do NOT denigrate Arthur C. Clark in such an egregious fashion! There is no valid comparison possible here.

  40. tty
    Thanks for your great biological insights such as the ammonites / nautiloids (small / big eggs) observation which strongly and elegantly points to a catastrophe of a few weeks duration only (plus lake and river survivors, etc.)

  41. “Ironically today, the most immediate threat is not from natural cooling but from human-made global warming.”

    First I thought, what’s ironic here?

    Verbal Irony-where someone says the opposite of what they really mean or intend; sarcasm is a particularly biting form of verbal irony

    What’s going on? The most immediat threat is another asteroid strike.

  42. “The dinosaurs were used to living in a lush climate”
    Errrrh…..maybe not all of them.

    There were plenty of southern, at least sub-polar dinosaurs, living in areas where the climate was quite cool, even then. And while summer days were long, winter nights were long as well.

    It’s speculated that some of theses dinosaurs may have made it through the KT boundary but there is no evidence for it.

    But some other dinosaurs did make it.
    KFC is the evidence.

    • Just noting that the dinosaur cove location was most definitely not in the Antarctic circle. If you look at the mid-oceanic ridge that designates the separation point between Australia and Antarctica (starting about 100 mya but didn’t really get going until 40 Mya), the dinosaur cove area had to be at around 58S at the time of the south polar dinosaurs. For some reason, they always misplace Australia and Antarctica too far south at this time.

    • Umm…no. T rex did not evolve into chickens. But it is true that tyrannosaurids are close to the line of dinosaurs that evolved into birds. At least early small tyrannosaurids like Dilong and Yutyrannus actually had primitive feathers.

      • TTY,

        Yup. Tyrannosaurs are close to the maniraptoran dinos. Most if not all coelurosaurs were feathered, at least at some time in their lives. Even T. rex might have had simple plumage when young.

        Besides their evolving large size, tyrannosaurs are distinct from other coelurosaurs in losing their third fingers, which were but a stub in T. rex and those tyrannosaurids most closely related to it. In the bird-like alvarezsaurs, the three standard fingers got down to just one, possibly as an adaptation to eating insects.

        They had “but one claw!”

  43. As a geologist with a long standing interest in the trace element behaviour of exhalative volcanics I would suggest that a few simple scans of the material enclosing the dinosaur remains would yield a strong volcanic affiliation. Having seen the foot prints in the sand (actually pumice) on Green Mountain In Denver, CO then my first suspicion would be to look more closely at this phenomenon. And what to analyse for – common rock forming oxides and trace elements including Ba, Sr, Rb, V etc. Using the common elemental ratios then it is very easy to lot the genesis of the host material surrounding the dinosaur remains.

  44. To think all species of dinosaurs (including flying/aquatic reptiles) died out 66 million years ago is absurd, there must have been some, small size/lucky species that survived, maybe up until recent times. Birds and big cold blooded retiles survived.

    • Simon,

      Some small dinosaurs did survive, ie birds. The marine reptiles were large and their prey died out. At the end of the Cretaceous only the biggest flying reptiles still lived.

    • PS: The larger crocs and turtles which survived did so because they could hibernate or estivate or could survive on carcasses, fish or plant food which didn’t die out. But mostly only small vertebrates survived.

      • Crocs might also have raided egg mounds and eaten the young of their own and other species, along with the little creatures which survived.

    • Your link is a pack of ludicrous lies.

      Dinosauria is a superorder, not a class. It was defined by Owen in 1842, far from the height of evolutionary fact, but 16 years before Darwin’s Origin.

      • You’ve taken too many college courses that never taught you to think for your self. You just regurgitate what was regugitated before, etc. etc.
        Be like a forensic scientist. Examine the so called evidence.. I am positive that no Museum today will allow you to search out all their fossils.. I mean plaster castings.

  45. P/T survivals are most easily explained as underground–as eggs or as fossorial creatures. A few eggs buried at maximum typical depth survived because the ground did not get too cold at that depth. This entails a short cold period, as would be caused by dust. Even a few bird species survived, possibly as cave dwellers like the oil bird. –AGF

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