JoNova

A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).


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Massive Eltanin Meteor 2.5 million years ago set off mass tsunami, changed the climate?

From the file of “Things that would really be catastrophic”. Did a meteor have a role in a major shift in Earth’s Climate?

The start of the Quaternary period (2.588 million years ago, where the Pliocene became Pleistocene) coincides with evidence of a mega tsunami in the South Pacific.

The Eltanin Meteor fell into the South Pacific 2.5 million years ago setting off a (likely) tsunami that was hundreds of meters high and theoretically pushed mass material into the atmosphere which may have contributed to the cooling the globe had already started on. This meteor was hard to detect because it hit the ocean rather than the land. But researchers have pieced together evidence of the mass tsunami on continents around the pacific rim.

Figure 1. Possible effects of the Eltanin megatsunami. (A) Composite model of wave amplitudes for the South Pacific [modified after Ward and Asphaug (2002) but with a greater decay rate of wave amplitude away from the impact point; this produces lower wave amplitudes on affected coasts, more in line with recent findings but not as low as those proposed by Shuvalov and Trubetskaya (2007)]: ANT, Antarctica; AU, Australia; NZ, New Zealand; SA, South America. (B) [...]