Dinosaurs went extinct 65 million years ago when a massive asteroid slammed into Earth nearby modern day Cancun. The asteroid triggered an unimaginable mile-high tsunami that swept across Earth’s oceans.
The Chicxulub asteroid was 9-miles wide and changed the course of life on Earth dramatically. Geologists mark the asteroid impact with a change in the geologic time period from the Cretaceous to the Paleogene for its significant impact on life and geology around the globe.
The asteroid hit the modern-day Yucatán Peninsula in shallow seas and immediately transformed the landscape. The impact created a mile deep crater, blasting away sediment, Earth’s crust and water. The impact crater then refilled with ocean water rushing in, forming secondary waves as they all collided at the center of the crater.
To understand what the tsunami looked like, researchers modeled the impact taking into account historical land and ocean topography. They found that a mile-high tsunami likely formed from the impact. To put this into perspective, the largest wave ever recorded in modern times was in May of 2018 when a 78 feet tall wave hit nearby New Zealand. The tsunami created from the asteroid impact was 68 times its size.
Want another way to compare the sheer size of this wave? Stack the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, The Eiffel Tower, Great Pyramid of Giza and One World Trade Center all on top of each other and this wave would be taller.
The simulation below provides an idea of the crater and wave triggered from the asteroid impact. You can see the initial impact blew away water, the underlying sediment, and the underlying bedrock, flinging them into the air and to the sides.
The research, presented at the American Geophysical Union’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C. is the first time researchers investigated specifically the tsunami that swept across the globe.
As if the tsunami wasn’t enough, the asteroid impact created shock waves in Earth’s crust that traveled across continents and threw up enough rock and dust into the atmosphere to cause friction-induced lightning, start forest fires, cook animals alive and block out the sun for years and rained sulfuric acid.
When the dust settled and Earth began to rebuild, 75% of all species on Earth had died. Yet, life on Earth still found a way to rebound. The sudden disappearance of three-quarters of life on Earth introduced opportunities for the surviving organisms to flourish and genetically branch into new species. The absence of competitors led to a prolific divergence in species, introducing what would eventually be modern horses, whales, primates, etc.