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Comet Impact Caused Mini Ice Age, Says Major New Study

In “What Ended the Ice Age?” the cover story for Atlantis Rising #113 (September/October, 2015), writer Cynthia Logan laid out independent researcher Randall Carlson’s extensive case that the so-called Younger Dryas mini-ice age was brought on by a comet impact. In the catastrophist tradition of Immanuel Velikovsky, Carlson is a leader among alternative researchers who argue that ancient myths of floods and lost civilization tell a real story of life on Earth punctuated by a cosmic impact. Recent discoveries, like those at Gobekli Tepe in Turkey, Gunung Padang in Indonesia—to say nothing of a re-dated Sphinx in Egypt—make it clear that advanced civilization predated the end of the last ice age. Now a major new scientific study is providing overwhelming evidence that not very long ago, geologically speaking, life on Earth was indeed violently interrupted and our last ice age began.

Entitled, somewhat antiseptically, “Extraordinary Biomass-Burning Episode and Impact Winter Triggered by the Younger Dryas Cosmic Impact—12,800 Years Ago,” the paper yet tells a hair-raising tale of enormous firestorms, worse than those that killed the dinosaurs many millions of years ago, that ravaged as much as a tenth of Earth’s surface. The ensuing ‘mini’ ice age, set in motion by immense dust clouds that smothered the planet, lasted for a thousand years.

The extensive and highly detailed research, published in February, 2018, in the Journal of Geology says the firestorms were caused by hits from comet fragments as large as 62 miles across. “The hypothesis is that a large comet fragmented and that chunks impacted the Earth, causing this disaster,” says Adrian Melott from the University of Kansas, one of the study’s authors.

“A number of different chemical signatures—carbon dioxide, nitrate, ammonia, and others—all seem to indicate that an astonishing 10 percent of Earth’s land surface—or about 3.86 million square miles—was consumed by fires.”

One analysis carried out on patterns in pollen levels suggested that pine forests were suddenly burned off and replaced by poplar trees—a species specializing in covering barren ground, as might be expected when the planet has been hit with a series of massive fireballs.

The widespread impact of comet fragments, and the ensuing firestorm, is blamed by the team for the Younger Dryas event, itself a relatively brief blip in the planet’s temperature history, which has sometimes been attributed to changing ocean currents.

Though the largest to date, the University-of-Kansas-led study is not the first to blame a cosmic impact for the Younger Dryas. In October 2007, researchers reported finding, at six North American sites, abundant tiny particles of diamond dust in sediments dating to 12,900 years ago. The powerful evidence for impact with comets came from the research of a 26-member team from 16 academic institutions led by University of Oregon archaeologist Douglas Kennett, which proposed that an impact event, possibly involving multiple comet airbursts, set off the Younger Dryas, leading to many extinctions across North America, including the indigenous Clovis culture and a large range of animals, including mammoths. The paper was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Not everyone agrees yet that a comet impact kicked off the Younger Dryas event, but the recent studies appear close to settling the issue and vindicating, once and for all, long-derided catastrophist history.

CAPTIONS: Nanometer-sized diamonds occur at the base of a layer of sediment directly above the remains of extinct animals (mammoths, dire wolves, etc.) and artifacts from Clovis culture at a research site in Murray Springs, Arizona. (University of Oregon photo)

Cover art from A.R. #6 (November/December,1996) portrays a comet strike that may have destroyed Atlantis. (Art by Tom Miller.)