Massive Comet Led The Earth To Experience a Mini Ice Age 13,000 Years Ago, Researchers Say

Toward the end of the ice age, a massive firestorm broke out after fragments of a comet that measured more than 60 miles wide, struck the planet. Dust clouds created from the fire went on to cover the Earth leading to a mini ice age, according to an international team of scientists.

The team of researchers came to this hypothesis after examining samples of rock and other deposits collected from more than 170 sites across the globe.

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“The hypothesis is that a large comet fragmented and the chunks impacted the Earth, causing this disaster,” Adrian Melott, study author and emeritus astrophysics professor at The University of Kansas, said in a statement. “A number of different chemical signatures—carbon dioxide, nitrate, ammonia and others—all seem to indicate that an astonishing 10 percent of the Earth's land surface, or about 10 million square kilometers, was consumed by fires.”

2_4_Fire Smoke fills the sky over the ocean beyond homes threatened by the Thomas Fire on December 16, 2017 in Montecito, California. The National Weather Service has issued red flag warnings of dangerous fire weather in Southern California for the duration of the weekend. Prior to the weekend, Los Angeles and Ventura counties had 12 consecutive days of red flag fire warnings, the longest sustained period of fire weather warnings on record. The Thomas Fire is currently the fourth largest California fire since records began in 1932, growing to 400 square miles and destroying more than 1,000 structures since it began on December 4. David McNew/Getty Images

Melott and his colleagues work, which is broken up into two studies published in The Journal of Geology, also conclude that pieces of the comet—that they believe hit the planet about 13,000 years ago—are still floating around in our solar system.

In addition to rocks and glaciers, the team also examined pollen. The pollen levels they saw led them to believe that the fire burned off acres of pine forests, which were later replaced with poplar trees that colonized the open land.


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Other types of plants and food sources were affected too, which ultimately lead humans to adapt to severe conditions.

“Computations suggest that the impact would have depleted the ozone layer, causing increases in skin cancer and other negative health effects,” Melott said. “The impact hypothesis is still a hypothesis, but this study provides a massive amount of evidence, which we argue can only be all explained by a major cosmic impact.”

Although previous researchers have suggested a comet kicked off the Earth’s mini age, the latest body of work adds perhaps the most in-depth dive into the theory.

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