It is hard for people to accept that sudden climate changes and extinctions can have multiple causes, these periodic 'Perfect Storms' can lead to mass exterminations. This week, some scientists suggest that the US and parts of Europe were affected by a meteorite with a high carbon content exploding and causing vast fires that lead to the extermination of 40% of the large and some smaller species 12,900 years ago. They hypothosize this also caused the sudden Younger Dryas cold phase event. I look at other geological and celestial events from that same time frame.
Scientists will outline dramatic evidence this week that suggests a comet exploded over the Earth nearly 13,000 years ago, creating a hail of fireballs that set fire to most of the northern hemisphere.
Primitive Stone Age cultures were destroyed and populations of mammoths and other large land animals, such as the mastodon, were wiped out. The blast also caused a major bout of climatic cooling that lasted 1,000 years and seriously disrupted the development of the early human civilisations that were emerging in Europe and Asia.
For many years, scientists have wondered why the vast majority---but certainly not all---megafauna of the Pleistocene in North America suddenly vanished. The Clovis point people also ceased to be, mainly, the stone tools they chipped abruptly ended and the stone tools found in more recent time frames were not nearly so sophisticated. Anthropologists wonder if the makers of these tools were killed off or were so disrupted, they couldn't keep their culture. We know very little about all this and scientists are always looking for some clues, what could have happened?
We know that the fauna of Africa changed relatively little during this same time frame. But then, Africa didn't have huge ice sheets cover half the continent and then suddenly, disappear. Siberia's climate changed relatively little, it was never covered with glaciers, but North America and Europe did go through some very violent cyclic changes.
The sudden collapse of the large mammals in North America in particular can't be pin pointed to one cause, easily. There were several changes that were sudden and unique. One was, the sudden appearance of the Clovis hunters who seemed to be very good at this art. Unlike the game living in Africa, the large mammals in the Americas were naive about humans. Humans evolved alongside African animals so they were aquainted with our tendency to kill everything in sight. This is why animals, when they spot humans, run away.
One would suppose, when the larger animals in the Americas first met humans and their dogs, they thought nothing of it until it was too late. And humans had a hunting tool we keep forgetting: fire. In Africa, humans have been using fire for many generations, at least 200,000 years. The landscape of Africa has been reshaped by fires lit by humans. We see today how, in America, humans love to set fires and dry seasons are very dangerous in many places because we are pyromaniacs.
Many of the fires we set today are snuffed out. But in the past, when they burned wildly, they were explosive and destructive such as the Great Peshtigo Fire in 10/8/1871 which killed the most people in American fire fighting history. This took place in Wisconsin and the trigger was a mere cold front encountering a forest dried out by a long summer heat wave and drought. This fire jumped lakes and rivers. It doesn't take much to start a raging fire.
From the news story above:
'This comet set off a shock wave that changed Earth profoundly,' said Arizona geophysicist Allen West. 'It was about 2km-3km in diameter and broke up just before impact, setting off a series of explosions, each the equivalent of an atomic bomb blast. The result would have been hell on Earth. Most of the northern hemisphere would have been left on fire.'
The theory is to be outlined at the American Geophysical Union meeting in Acapulco, Mexico. A group of US scientists that include West will report that they have found a layer of microscopic diamonds at 26 different sites in Europe, Canada and America. These are the remains of a giant carbon-rich comet that crashed in pieces on our planet 12,900 years ago, they say. The huge pressures and heat triggered by the fragments crashing to Earth turned the comet's carbon into diamond dust. 'The shock waves and the heat would have been tremendous,' said West. 'It would have set fire to animals' fur and to the clothing worn by men and women. The searing heat would have also set fire to the grasslands of the northern hemisphere. Great grazing animals like the mammoth that had survived the original blast would later have died in their thousands from starvation. Only animals, including humans, that had a wide range of food would have survived the aftermath.'
Even if there were really big fires, this wouldn't change the climate for more than a few years. This is because burning forests and fields can't send their particulate matter above the Jet Stream. The only things that can do this trick are volcanoes. And full-impact metoerite strikes. I would seriously doubt this hypothesis was the sole cause of the Younger Dryas and the extinctions. But then, if we look at all the odd geological events that happened within the 12,000-11,000 years ago time frame, we see some interesting things that could have created the Perfect Fire and Dust Storm: a comet possibly hitting the Carolinas and some very violent volcanic events in Europe and Indonesia.
Laacher See is a crater lake in the Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany, situated close to the cities of Koblenz and Mayen. It fills a volcanic caldera in the Eifel mountain range, the only caldera in Central Europe. It is part of the area of the "east Eifel volcanic field".
The lake lies 850 ft (259 m) above sea level, 5 mi (8 km) in circumference, and surrounded by a ring of high hills. The water has a blue color, very cold and bitter to the taste. The lake has no natural outlet and so the water level changes considerably due to evaporation and rainfall conditions. On the western side lies the Benedictine monastery of Maria Laach Abbey (Abbatia Lacensis), founded in 1093 by Henry II, count palatine of the Rhine.
The caldera was formed after the Laacher volcano erupted, between 12900 and 11200 years ago. The remaining crust collapsed into the empty magma-chamber below, only two or three days after the eruption. This eruption was 50 times bigger than the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980. Remains of this eruption can be found all over Europe and is often used for dating of sediments. A number of unique minerals can be found in the region, and quaries to mine the stone as a building material.
Many, many big extinction events happen to coincide with massive caldera events. Unlike simple eruptions, when a volcano becomes a caldera, they usually blow up in a matter of hours or days and eject their entire mass into the high stratosphere. Unlike normal volcanic events that send their dust lower and don't penetrate the Jet Stream, these major eruptions can and do jump that barrier. And once the gases and dust get lodged up high, it takes many years to descend. This causes several things, one is, much lower temperatures. Unlike the explosion of the possible meteorite over North America, one that threw no gases or dust above the Jet Stream, caldera events are very, very dirty in all ways and the gases they release are particularily potent.
The meteorite didn't impact the earth so nothing terrestrial was released, only carbon entered the atmosphere. No sulfur. But if a meteorite blows up and a caldera does the same in the same geological time frame, then we see a one-two punch. The caldera in Europe is the only 'hot spot' in Europe outside of Sicily and Naples, Italy. We see now that a major volcanic event affected Europe's flora and fauna even as North America burned from the explosion of this meteorite. But there was more!
Campi Flegrei, in Southern Italy, is an active caldera that has shown signs of unrest since 1969. Because the caldera has a population of 400,000 people, it is especially important to understand the mechanisms driving the unrest and their implication for the probability of a future eruption. Since its last ignimbrite eruption 12,000 years ago (which produced the Neapolitan Yellow Tuff), volcanic activity in Campi Flegrei has consisted of numerous eruptions (volumes ~0.1 km3 or less) surrounding the inferred caldera rim. For at least the last 3,700 years, the caldera has been subsiding at mean rates of 14-17 mm per year, punctuated by two known periods of mean uplift (1430-1538 and 1969-Present). The first period produced a net uplift of about 30 m at the port of Pozzuoli and was followed in 1538 by the eruption of Monte Nuovo (20 million m3) some 4 km to the west. The second period has to date consisted of two episodes of uplift (in 1969-72 and 1982-84), each raising Pozzuoli by about 2 m. Studies of the second period have attributed uplift either to magmatic intrusion or to the expansion of water in heated aquifers. These interpretations assumed a stationary reference condition. It is here proposed that the reference condition in fact corresponds to subsidence at about 17 mm per year. Slower subsidence then reflects the difference between background subsidence and actual intrusion of magma. The revised interpretation suggests a two-component source for the recent episodes of uplift: (1) intrusion of two batches of magma of ~0.1 km3 that have produced a permanent uplift of about 2.8 m, and (2) the expansion and later dissipation of heated water, which produced a temporary uplift of about 0.7 m that has since disappear
So, there was not just one but two major caldera events in this same time frame! Since both of these happened in the Northern Hemisphere, if we couple these with the meteorite event in the Americas, this would definitely cause a catastrophic drop in temperatures in the North. Africa straddles the equator and probably was not as affected.
Glacier Peak (3,213 meters) is a small Cascade Range stratovolcano. Although its summit reaches greater then 3,000 meters above the surrounding valleys, the main cone of Glacier Peak is perched on a high ridge, and the volcanic pile is no more than 500-1,000 meters thick. More than a dozen glaciers occur on the flanks of the volcano, and unconsolidated pyroclastic deposits over 12,000 years old have been largely removed by glaciation. Lava flows locally cap ridges to the northeast of the volcano, indicating a topographic reversal, and glacial and fluvial downcutting of more than 2,000 meters has occurred since the earliest cone-building eruptions. While small basaltic flows and cones are found at several points around the flanks of Glacier Peak, the main edifice is largely dacite and andesite. Lava flows extend no more than a few kilometers from the summit.
This wasn't the only major eruption in the Americas. There were others. All we have to do is look to Alaska where the subduction zone has launched a whole host of powerful volcanoes.
Kizimen is an isolated, conical stratovolcano that is morphologically similar to Mount St. Helens prior to its 1980 eruption. The summit of Kizimen consists of overlapping lava domes, and blocky lava flows descend the flanks of the volcano, which is the westernmost of a volcanic chain north of Kronotsky volcano. The 2376-m-high Kizimen was formed during four eruptive cycles beginning about 12,000 years ago and lasting 2000-3500 years.
The Younger Dryas lasted for over 1,000 years. During that time, this volcano was pumping dirt and gases into the higher atmospheres right at the top of the planet.
Another major volcanic event that started in 12,000. The earth doesn't have regular volcanic episodes, they are periodic. Some, like the great Deccan Traps of India or the even greater Siberian Traps, probably caused major extinctions. The Siberian Traps occured exactly when the biggest extinction happened: the Permian collapse. Meteorite strikes can trigger such events. The confluence of forces that create great extinctions happen only rarely but they do happen.
It is interesting that extinctions connected with volcanic eruptions happened all over the planet 12,000-11,000 years ago. Australia had a major extinction event back then, too. There are not volcanoes there but a vast drought occured. So I looked for a nearby volcanic event/extinction and found it:
The newfound bones may hold more clues about the Flores people. Researchers plan to try to extract DNA from the bones, hoping to clarify the relationship between H. floresiensis and other human species.
Whether or not the attempt is successful, one thing is certain: The tiny Flores people continued to thrive for thousands of years after other early human species disappeared around the globe.
Then, about 12,000 years ago, a volcanic eruption on Flores wiped out many of the island's unusual species, including the pygmy elephants. The Flores people, too, seem to have perished in the blast.
The last survivors of our ancestors, our nearer relatives, they all died at this same time. The Neanderthals, the Hobbits, anyone living in China, whoever. This was another terrible key-hole event in evolutionary history. The one-time event of a meteorite explosion couldn't cause such tremendous changes but what if its passage through the earth's atmoshpere and its demise triggered a series of violent earthquakes which woke up a host of nasty volcanoes and thus, caused considerable geological havoc leading to destabilizing the climate?
Meanwhile, in North America the debate on megafaunal mammal extinction is about to get a much-needed injection of reliable data. Paleontologists Holmes Semken (University of Iowa) and Russell Graham (Denver Museum of Natural History), and radiocarbon dating expert Tom Stafford (Stafford Research Laboratory, Boulder, Colorado) have obtained 140 new AMS dates on proteins extracted from fossil bones of megafaunal mammals that died near the end of the last glaciation. The bones come mainly from North American sites, from Alaska to Mexico. The results of this new study are quite startling. It now appears that the major megafaunal exinction event took place at 11,400 14C yr B.P. This event included the extinction of camels, horses, giant sloths, Pleistocene bison, and all other genera of megafaunal mammals that did not survive beyond 11,400 14C yr B.P. , with the exception of the proboscideans. Mammoths and mastodons persisted beyond 11,400 yr B.P. Stafford et al. have dated the extinction of North American mammoth and mastodon to 10,900-10,850 yr B.P. So it now appears that there were two distinct extinction episodes. Each event took less than 100 years.
The older event may have taken place before, during, or just after the first appearance of Clovis artifacts in the archaeological record. The most recent evaluation of the age of Clovis sites in North America (Taylor et al., 1996) places the beginning of this culture at 11,500 yr B.P. If the people who used Clovis tools arrived in North America at that time, then they have never seen most of the Pleistocene megafaunal mammal species, much less have been responsible for their demise. There is good evidence that Clovis hunters killed and butchered mammoth and mastodon, the megafaunal species that died out a few centuries later. Whether human predation was responsible for the proboscidean extinction remains an open question.
In other words, the extinction didn't happen in one year! It was gradual but geologically speaking, sudden. The climate change was sudden, in less than five years. But that probably was due to the Laacher Sea caldera explosion. Just like the end of the dinosaurs was pushed by the meteorite strike 65 million years ago but the climate was already changing rapidly at that point because even as the fauna and plants were affected harshly by that event, the evolution of flora and the bees and other modern plants had already begun prior to the meteorite impact.
Which brings back the idea of a 'Perfect Storm'. There has to be fertile ground for change if an event is going to cause a cascade effect. This includes the sun's activities. How much energy or x-rays it is producing.
If Carolina Bays represent residual scars of a truly singular extraterrestrial event, the bays must be young--an attribute accepted by many terrestrial theorists as well. For example, Price (1968) indicated one or more periods of late Pleistocene bay development, whereas Thom (1970) indicated either a Farmdalian (28,000 - 22,000 B.P.) or a Woodfordian (22,000 - 12,500 B.P.) age. Age is a more critical factor when an extraterrestrial mechanism is invoked. Bays formed virtually instantaneously by explosions of cometary fragments are residual features. Subsequent modifications of such scars by normal terrestrial processes would rapidly obliterate all traces in unconsolidated sediments such as the Coastal Plain. Study of bays in Figure 2 suggests that bays remain quite distinct, essentially unaltered except for infilling; thus, the bays must be quite young--either late Wisconsinan or early Holocene.
Very few samples of buried peat in the bays have been dated. Thom (1970) had a 6600 B.P. radiocarbon date from the basal peat in one South Carolina bay although he cited a greater than 38,000 B.P. date from the basal peat in a North Carolina bay. It is difficult to equate the two results. The bays may be Wisconsinan in age. On the other hand, anomalous dates do occur, so little reliance can be placed on the few dates which have been acquired. Sequential samples along a vertical profile in several bays need to be dated and at least one date from the basal organic fill in a large sample of bays should be taken. Such a dating program will permit the Carolina Bays to be more precisely defined in time, and, more particularly, may indicate the possibility of simultaneous origin.
Here is yet another possible cosmic event from the exact same time frame! There is a lot of debate about what caused these strange pock-marks all over parts of the Carolinas and a few other places. Some geologists think this could be hot water popping out. Or it could be a comet exploding and pounding the landscape. Or perhaps the water did heat up and explode outwards...due to the meteorite blowing up further north? There are so many mysteries here.
The fact that these things formed suddenly and I presume, violently, during this whole time frame leads one to think that perhaps the planet was very disturbed for a while.
Two large and respected scientific conferences in Spring 2007 are sponsoring sessions with presentations regarding new research into the long debated origin of Carolina Bays. May 22-25 in Acapulco, Mexico, the American Geophysical Union Joint Assembly will have a session presenting first-time evidence of the "YD Extraterrestrial Impact," with two related Carolina Bay presentations proposed (one from your's truly if accepted). And on March 29 in Savannah, Georgia, the Southeastern Section of the American Geological Society is sponsoring a Carolina Bay-only session. The Georgia GSA presentations will present evidence largely in support of the prevailing view that Carolina Bays are formed solely by terrestrial mechanisms, while the Acapulco AGU presentations will claim bays are related to the newly described YD impact that began the end of the Ice Age.
This very topic is being addressed in two weeks. I will try to get more information when they release it. Certainly, figuring out all these many geological events is a great enterprise and as we know, watching that comet disintegrate and slam into Jupiter, to this day, things in the Oort Belt can and will come here and cause havoc.
Firestone, who conducted this research with Arizona geologist Allen West, will unveil this theory at the 2nd International Conference "The World of Elephants" in Hot Springs, SD. Their theory joins the list of possible culprits responsible for the demise of mammoths, which last roamed North America roughly 13,000 years ago. Scientists have long eyed climate change, disease, or intensive hunting by humans as likely suspects.
Now, a supernova may join the lineup. Firestone and West believe that debris from a supernova explosion coalesced into low-density, comet-like objects that wreaked havoc on the solar system long ago. One such comet may have hit North America 13,000 years ago, unleashing a cataclysmic event that killed off the vast majority of mammoths and many other large North American mammals. They found evidence of this impact layer at several archaeological sites throughout North America where Clovis hunting artifacts and human-butchered mammoths have been unearthed. It has long been established that human activity ceased at these sites about 13,000 years ago, which is roughly the same time that mammoths disappeared.
And here is the possible Key Event: a supernova disturbs the entire solar system! This causes the Oort Belt's various objects and thingies to cease circling the sun from far away and bits and pieces come roaring inwards, striking the moon, the earth and all the gas giants as well as slamming into the sun. This tremendous disturbance would also trigger earthquakes and volcanoes here on earth! Not to mention, disturbing the sun.
And so we see, all things affect each other and if one significant even, even if it is far away, outside our solar system, can trigger the Perfect Storm and exterminate many living things here on earth.
Other stories I have done on this topic: