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The Alvarez Asteroid Impact Theory

The reason why dinosaurs disappeared off of the face of the earth has been a mystery that many have wished to solve. Many theories have emerged, but it is Luis Alvarez and his son, Walter, that made a significant contribution to this debate. In this article, you will learn more about the Alvarez Asteroid Impact Theory.

The K-T (Cretaceous-Tertiary) extinction is a popular topic to discuss whenever the subject of dinosaurs comes to light. Many theories have been drummed up, but in 1980, physicist Luis Alvarez and his geologist son offered an explanation , an asteroid that was 4 to 9 miles in diameter hit the Earth about 65 million years ago. The impact of the asteroid would have penetrated the Earth’s crust , causing dust to scatter and debris to enter the atmosphere. Huge fires erupted as a result and active volcanoes started to erupt even more than before.

The asteroid hit also triggered tsunamis and brought along severe storms with high winds that caused rain with high levels of acid. The impact could have caused chemical changes in the atmosphere of Earth that increased the concentrations of sulfuric acid, nitric acid, and fluoride compounds. The heat that came from the initial blast of impact could have sent a ripple of death throughout the world , burning up all life forms.

With a heavy amount of dust and debris in the atmosphere, sunlight was most likely blocked for months and the temperature across the globe drastically lowered. Because of all of this, the organisms that could not adapt to the changes in temperature and light would die out. Since plants get their energy from the sun, they too would start to disappear from the earth. Numerous families of phytoplankton and plants would die out, and the oxygen levels on Earth would greatly decrease on land and in the ocean. Those that could not deal with the lower oxygen levels would suffocate.

All of the above changes would affect the food chain. When the plants died, the herbivores that relied on eating this source of food would starve. When the prey died out, the meat-eating carnivores would have no choice but to eat one another, and when that happened, they too would eventually perish. The large number of dead carnivores would supply smaller animals with food.

Earth is home to many impact craters , some measuring 120 miles wide and one mile deep. The impact crater known as Chicxulub is located at the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. This crater dates back 65 million years ago and is most likely the site of the K-T meteorite impact. Evidence of K-T period tsunamis all around the Gulf of Mexico has been uncovered.

There is also chemical evidence to support the Alvarez Theory. There is a clay layer from the Cretaceous-Tertiary (K-T) boundary that scientists have been studying. They have located chemical evidence that supports the Alvarez impact theory in the sedimentary deposits that developed at the end of the Cretaceous period to the beginning of the Tertiary period. One of the things they found was a form of quartz called stishovite (Silicon Dioxide), which is created under conditions of high heat and pressure.