Dino-Killing Asteroid Struck an Unfortunate Spot, Claim Scientists

 Drawn by  Patryk Zawistowski, Image: Charlotta Wasteson/Flickr
Drawn by Patryk Zawistowski, Image: Charlotta Wasteson/Flickr

Hindsight is 20/20. Maybe you’d be more productive if you didn’t stay up until 3 am binge watching Stranger Things. Maybe you’d be a Nobel-winning scientist if you didn’t smoke too much pot during undergrad and sleep through your lectures. Maybe the dinosaurs wouldn’t have gone extinct if the giant meteor hit...somewhere else.

That’s what these Japanese researchers are saying. Essentially, their model shows that only 13 percent of the Earth’s surface had the right chemistry to have produced the catastrophic results 66 million years ago.

“The site of asteroid impact, therefore, changed the history of life on Earth,” they write the new paper published today in Scientific Reports.


You know the story—66 million years ago, an asteroid maybe nine kilometers in diameter hit the present-day Yucatan Peninsula, creating the Chicxulub crater. Recent models have shown that it probably threw 300 gigatons of sulfur and 420 gigatons of carbon dioxide into the air, blanketing the planet and causing a sort-of nuclear winter.

But the researchers’ new model shows that only about thirteen percent of the Earth had the right makeup of hydrocarbons to produce the soot that blankedted the world. They present the below map with their study, where only orange and magenta regions had the right chemical makeup to cause the 8 to 11 degree Celsius (14 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit) cooling, they say.

Illustration for article titled Dino-Killing Asteroid Struck an Unfortunate Spot, Claim Scientists

The authors told the New York Times that they thought the dinosaurs still might be around today. But that article cites some scientists who had several criticisms, include questions over whether or not the soot actually came from the dirt or from the burning afterwards. Research has also shown the dinosaurs were already in decline, reports The Guardian.

Again, hindsight is 20/20. But I’m kind of glad the dinosaurs went extinct, to be honest.


[Scientific Reports]

Former Gizmodo physics writer and founder of Birdmodo, now a science communicator specializing in quantum computing and birds

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The assumption here is that the meteor was the primary cause of the demise of the dinosaurs.

There’s this little thing called the Deccan Flats, which were basalt vocanic flats that date from almost exactly the same time as the demise of the dinos, and it was thought that they might have something to do with it before the impact theory came along and the crater was dated to about the same time.

It turns out that the Deccan flats are antipodal to the location of the crater, that is, exactly on the opposite side of the planet.

The idea is, a meteor hitting the earth is like a bullet striking an orange; that is, *something* will come out the other side, eventually, and in this case it might have been a massive amount of volcanic erputions because of the impact, which supports the idea of the gasses from the volcanoes being a much more significant cause of their death.