A 10-kilometer-wide asteroid struck Earth approximately 66 million years ago, causing the extinction of the dinosaurs. According to recent research, the collision may have also set off a major earthquake that shook the earth for several weeks or months. This “mega-earthquake” is predicted to have released 1023 joules of energy, which is nearly 50,000 times more energy than the magnitude 9.1 Sumatra earthquake in 2004.
At the next GSA Connects conference in Denver this Sunday, October 9, Hermann Bermudez will provide proof of this “mega-earthquake.” In order to gather information, Bermudez travelled to outcrops of the famed Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) mass extinction event boundary in Texas, Alabama, and Mississippi earlier this year with funding from a GSA Graduate Student Research Grant and supplementing his previous work in Colombia and Mexico documenting evidence of the catastrophic impact.
In 2014, Bermudez discovered layers of silt containing tiny glass beads and shards known as “tektites” and “microtektites” that were thrown into the atmosphere during an asteroid impact while conducting fieldwork on Colombia’s Gorgonilla Island. These glass beads were created when the impact’s heat and pressure melted and dispersed the Earth’s crust, ejecting tiny, melted blobs up into the atmosphere, which later fell back to the surface as glass due to gravity. Around 2 kilometres deep in the ocean, the exposed rocks of Gorgonilla Island tell a tale. Sand, silt, and small marine life were building up on the ocean floor almost 3,000 kilometres southwest of the impact location.
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