Why won’t this debate about an ancient cold snap die? | Science News

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Why won’t this debate about an ancient cold snap die?

Despite mainstream opposition, a controversial comet impact hypothesis persists

By
2:00pm, June 26, 2018
illustration of bison and mammoths

WHERE’D THEY GO? About 13,000 years ago, during the Pleistocene Epoch, bison, mammoths (illustrated) and other large mammals roamed North America. Researchers continue to argue over what caused their extinction.

Around 13,000 years ago, Earth was emerging from its last great ice age. The vast frozen sheets that had covered much of North America, Europe and Asia for thousands of years were retreating. Giant mammals — steppe bison, woolly mammoths and saber-toothed cats — grazed or hunted across tundra and grasslands. A Paleo-Indian group of hunter-gatherers who eventually gave rise to the Clovis people had crossed a land bridge from Asia hundreds of years earlier and were now spread across North America, hunting mammoth with distinctive spears.

Then, at about 12,800 years ago, something strange happened. Earth was abruptly plunged back into a deep chill. Temperatures in parts of the Northern Hemisphere plunged to as much as 8 degrees Celsius colder than today. The cold snap lasted only about 1,200 years — a mere blip, in geologic time. Then, just as abruptly, Earth began to warm again. But many of the giant mammals were dying out. And the Clovis people had apparently

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