Scientists Think A Medium-Size Asteroid Impact Could Cause A Mini Ice Age

It's not hard for us to think about what would happen to the Earth and life on our planet if a meteor impacted the surface. There have been several movies that showed what might happen in the event of an asteroid impact. A large enough asteroid could end all life on the planet leaving Earth devoid of life. A new study looks at what might happen to Earth if it were hit with a medium-size asteroid.

Scientist Charles Bardeen and colleagues modeled what would happen to the climate on Earth if the planet were hit with an asteroid 0.6-miles-wide or about 1 kilometer. If that asteroid impact was on land it would, likely hollow out a crater about nine-miles wide and throw massive amounts of dust into the atmosphere. Heat generated by the impact would also likely cause large-scale fires that would add soot and ash to the air, the fires assume that the asteroid impact didn't occur in a desert area where there is little or no vegetation.

All the material flung into the atmosphere would say aloft for about six years in the case of dust and about a decade for the soot from resulting fires according to the worst case scenarios the researchers came up with. The particles aloft in the atmosphere would heat in the sun and significantly heat the stratosphere. That heating would lead to the speeding of chemical reactions that destroy the ozone layer reducing atmospheric ozone by 55%.

That reduction would increase the surface UV index to around 20 in the tropical regions for several years, a UV index of 11 or more poses an extreme risk to humans who are in the sun with no protection. While the stratosphere would warm, the dust and soot in the air would reduce the sunlight that hits the Earth's surface by up to 70% for the first year or two after impact. Global surface temperatures would cool by 14.5F increasing sea ice and resulting in a mini ice age. Cooling temps would reduce convection thereby reducing weather fronts resulting in less precipitation and lower plant productivity. That means less food for humans and animals around the world.

SOURCE: Space.com