The Asteroid That Killed the Dinosaurs Caused a Massive Global Tsunami

For the first time, scientists have simulated how far and fast the Chicxulub asteroid, a.k.a. the one that killed the dinosaurs, impact spread around the globe. Besides wiping out the dinosaurs, it changed much more than that about our planet. The asteroid hit the ocean in what is now the Gulf of Mexico, but it was so powerful that it ejected seafloor sediment and even part of the Earth’s crust miles into the atmosphere. It also caused a wave nearly three miles high. Even 10 minutes after impact, the wave was still about a mile tall and was racing outward, already over 130 miles away from the crater. The video below shows the waves that spread around the world spreading devastation.

The scientific team found evidence to back up their simulation’s version of events in the fossil record. In what is now New Zealand, sediment cores show a very jumbled record of time. Though previously attributed to local earthquakes, scientists now think that the asteroid impact 7,500 miles away caused the disarray. Because even if the tsunami waves were “only” 30 feet high, they disturbed the ocean all the way down to the seafloor.

AGU Advances published the open access, peer-reviewed research project, which we saw in Science Alert. This may be the first scientific simulation of the asteroid’s impact, but there have been plenty of non-scientific ones. The Discovery Channel’s video of the devastation caused by a 300-mile-wide asteroid is essentially a disaster movie no one survives. Or if you want to work your way up to that level, there’s also a size comparison of asteroid impacts, starting with ones small enough to burn up in the atmosphere and ending with world-killers.  

An asteroid hits Earth in a simulated graphic
Discovery Channel

This news comes just weeks after the discovery of a planet-killer sized asteroid in our astronomical neighborhood. But don’t worry, it’s not predicted to cross paths with Earth anytime soon. And even if it did, NASA now knows how to bonk asteroids off course.    

Melissa is Nerdist’s science & technology staff writer. She also moderates “science of” panels at conventions and co-hosts Star Warsologies, a podcast about science and Star Wars. Follow her on Twitter @melissatruth. 

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