Burning oil might have killed the dinosaurs!

July 17, 2017

A massive oil burn could have been the reason for the darkness that was wrapped around the world 66 million years ago. 


It is well known that a giant meteor struck the earth in the Yucatan Peninsula and the Golf of Mexico. Nobel Prize winning physicist Louis Alvarez came up with the meteor theory back in 1979. He focused on a thin layer of clay – the K-Pg boundary – that marked the extinction. His clever idea was to look at iridium levels in the boundary clay. Iridium is a rare metal found primarily in meteorites, so the slow trickle of iridium from meteorites burning up in the atmosphere should act as a sort of cosmic hourglass, telling the passing of time.


His plan backfired spectacularly: iridium levels in the clay were magnitudes above the normal background levels. The K-Pg boundary was the debris of a giant asteroid impact. A few calculations suggested that it would take an asteroid 10 kilometres across to produce all that iridium. The idea that an asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs was widely ridiculed – but then, in 1990, the giant Chicxulub crater in Mexico was discovered.


Here is the problem. It was suggested that the impact of this large meteor would have sent a large enough amount of debris into to settle in our atmosphere around the world and clock out the sun. Recent stud