Quirks & Quarks

Cosmic collisions and global warming

Tiny glassy beads connect a meteorite impact and a massive global warming event
Microtektites as first seen in a sediment sample from the onset of the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum. (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute)

The "Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum" or PETM is considered the planet's largest warming event. The event happened approximately 55 million years ago, and saw a rise in temperatures of 5 to 8 degrees celsius in a relatively short amount of time. Scientists know that the PETM was tied to a massive surge of carbon, but it's always been a topic of debate as to how this large amount carbon was released into the atmosphere and ocean.

Now, Dr. Morgan Schaller has found what he thinks is direct evidence of a meteorite impact that struck earth around the time of the PETM. They can't say for sure that this strike might have triggered this period of global warming, but they say the timing is nothing short of remarkable.

size reference of glass spherules (Morgan Schaller)

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