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Signs of giant comet impacts found in cores

Copious ammonium may be evidence of a 50-billion-ton strike at the end of the ice age

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3:46pm, March 30, 2010

A new study cites spikes of ammonium in Greenland ice cores as evidence for a giant comet impact at the end of the last ice age, and suggests that the collision may have caused a brief, final cold snap before the climate warmed up for good.

In the April Geology, researchers describe finding chemical similarities in the cores between a layer corresponding to 1908, when a 50,000-metric-ton extraterrestrial object exploded over Tunguska, Siberia, and a deeper stratum dating to 12,900 years ago. They argue that the similarity is evidence that an object weighing as much as 50 billion metric tons triggered the Younger Dryas, a millennium-long cold spell that began just as the ice age was loosening its grip (SN: 6/2/07, p. 339).

Precipitation that fell on Greenland during the winter after Tunguska contains a strong, sharp spike in ammonium ions that can’t be explained by other sources such as wildfires sparked by the fiery explosion, says study co

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