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Extraordinary Biomass-Burning Episode and Impact Winter Triggered by the Younger Dryas Cosmic Impact ∼12,800 Years Ago. 1. Ice Cores and Glaciers

  • Author(s): Wolbach, Wendy S
  • Ballard, Joanne P
  • Mayewski, Paul A
  • Adedeji, Victor
  • Bunch, Ted E
  • Firestone, Richard B
  • French, Timothy A
  • Howard, George A
  • Israde-Alcántara, Isabel
  • Johnson, John R
  • Kimbel, David
  • Kinzie, Charles R
  • Kurbatov, Andrei
  • Kletetschka, Gunther
  • LeCompte, Malcolm A
  • Mahaney, William C
  • Melott, Adrian L
  • Maiorana-Boutilier, Abigail
  • Mitra, Siddhartha
  • Moore, Christopher R
  • Napier, William M
  • Parlier, Jennifer
  • Tankersley, Kenneth B
  • Thomas, Brian C
  • Wittke, James H
  • West, Allen
  • Kennett, James P
  • et al.

Published Web Location

https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/pdfplus/10.1086/695703
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Abstract

© 2018 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved. The Younger Dryas boundary (YDB) cosmic-impact hypothesis is based on considerable evidence that Earth collided with fragments of a disintegrating ≥100-km-diameter comet, the remnants of which persist within the inner solar system ∼12,800 y later. Evidence suggests that the YDB cosmic impact triggered an “impact winter” and the subsequent Younger Dryas (YD) climate episode, biomass burning, late Pleistocene megafaunal extinctions, and human cultural shifts and population declines. The cosmic impact deposited anomalously high concentrations of platinum over much of the Northern Hemisphere, as recorded at 26 YDB sites at the YD onset, including the Greenland Ice Sheet Project 2 ice core, in which platinum deposition spans ∼21 y (∼12,836–12,815 cal BP). The YD onset also exhibits increased dust concentrations, synchronous with the onset of a remarkably high peak in ammonium, a biomass-burning aerosol. In four ice-core sequences from Greenland, Antarctica, and Russia, similar anomalous peaks in other combustion aerosols occur, including nitrate, oxalate, acetate, and formate, reflecting one of the largest biomass-burning episodes in more than 120,000 y. In support of widespread wildfires, the perturbations in CO2 records from Taylor Glacier, Antarctica, suggest that biomass burning at the YD onset may have consumed ∼10 million km2, or ∼9% of Earth’s terrestrial biomass. The ice record is consistent with YDB impact theory that extensive impact-related biomass burning triggered the abrupt onset of an impact winter, which led, through climatic feedbacks, to the anomalous YD climate episode.

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