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The oldest known meteorite strike?

The uncertainty of science: Scientists think they have identified the oldest meteorite strike known on Earth, dated at 2.33 billion years ago, located in a known impact site in Yarrabubba, Western Australia.

Lead author Dr Timmons Erickson, from Curtin’s School of Earth and Planetary Sciences and NASA’s Johnson Space Center, together with a team including Professor Chris Kirkland, Associate Professor Nicholas Timms and Senior Research Fellow Dr Aaron Cavosie, all from Curtin’s School of Earth and Planetary Sciences, analysed the minerals zircon and monazite that were ‘shock recrystallized’ by the asteroid strike, at the base of the eroded crater to determine the exact age of Yarrabubba.

The team inferred that the impact may have occurred into an ice-covered landscape, vaporised a large volume of ice into the atmosphere, and produced a 70km diameter crater in the rocks beneath.

Professor Kirkland said the timing raised the possibility that the Earth’s oldest asteroid impact may have helped lift the planet out of a deep freeze. “Yarrabubba, which sits between Sandstone and Meekatharra in central WA, had been recognised as an impact structure for many years, but its age wasn’t well determined,” Professor Kirkland said. “Now we know the Yarrabubba crater was made right at the end of what’s commonly referred to as the early Snowball Earth – a time when the atmosphere and oceans were evolving and becoming more oxygenated and when rocks deposited on many continents recorded glacial conditions”.

Associate Professor Nicholas Timms noted the precise coincidence between the Yarrabubba impact and the disappearance of glacial deposits. “The age of the Yarrabubba impact matches the demise of a series of ancient glaciations. After the impact, glacial deposits are absent in the rock record for 400 million years. This twist of fate suggests that the large meteorite impact may have influenced global climate,” Associate Professor Timms said. [emphasis mine]

I truly believe they have determined the approximate age of this impact, making it one of the oldest known impacts. Implying however a “precise” linkage to other only vaguely known climate events, and inferring that the former was the cause of the latter seems to me to be a very large overstatement. Their data might suggest this conclusion, but the uncertainties here demand a bit less certitude..

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  • Cotour

    How unique and coincidental, the oldest indications in rock formations of the theorized first life on earth is also found on the now continent of Australia at I think 3.8 billion years. And now the oldest remaining meteorite impact is also found on the same dirt.

    “they have identified the oldest meteorite strike known on Earth”

    I think an important distinction needs to be made here of the oldest “Remaining” meteorite impact should be made. I think we can agree that the earth has for many billions of years before this impact 2.33 billion years ago been bombarded by both meteorites and comets of all sizes from those that could destroy all life and transform the entire surface of the planet to those that explode more harmlessly in the atmosphere. But their remnants are not readily identifiable because they have been eroded or subducted.

  • wayne

    fast-forwarding to roughly 12,800 ago–

    Hiawatha Crater– Greenland
    (1.5-kilometer asteroid yields 31-kilometer crater)

    –implicated by some in the “Younger Dryas” period –“..a return to glacial conditions after the Late Glacial Interstadial, which temporarily reversed the gradual climatic warming after the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) started receding around 20,000 BP. It is named after an indicator genus, the alpine-tundra wildflower Dryas octopetala.”

  • Cotour


    I am well aware of the Younger Dryas, very interesting and it seems to correlate to the sea rise pulses that increased the sea level by 400 feet between 12,800 and 10,000 years ago, and it appears to correlate with the stories in history of cataclysm and extinction.

    There is the Hiawatha crater and then there is also a suspected crater near the great lakes which appears to have caused what is designated the Carolina Bays Structures as a result of the impact.

    Very interesting of what appears to be evidence of these meteorite strikes at around the proposed time, 12,800 and 10,000 years ago. It appears to have changed things in many ways. Just 13 to 14 or so thousand years ago where we both sit right now there was 5 to 10 thousand feet of ice. That is just yesterday in geologic time.

    The subject of this panel however is much, much older than these really contemporary strikes on ice sheets. Like it happened yesterday in comparison. We exist in many respects as a function only of good luck and timing in many respects. There are bigger things to worry about than “Climate change”.

  • Patrick Underwood

    I’ve been following the YDH debate and it is following a path very similar to that of the KT impactor hypothesis. In other words, years of pushback from “the 97.5%” along with plenty of very unscientific name-calling and invocations of “fringe” science. Someone involved said something along the lines of “After 20 years, the scientific community finally accepted the idea that catastrophic impacts have occurred within the history of life on Earth. It will take another 20 years for it to accept that catastrophic impacts have occurred within the history of *human* life on Earth.”

  • Cotour

    Keeping in mind that its well within the realm of possibility that 10 minutes from now or 10 years from now the same could and may well happen. Imagine being alive to witness such an event.

    It kind of gives a bit perspective to the ranting about “Climate change” and “Global warming”.

  • Cotour

    The argument for CO2 being increased?

    Here the Milankovitch cycle is explained and apparently we are now in a cooling trend and were headed for the beginning of the next ice age. It is argued here that because of the modern increase in CO2 and the cutting of forests that these reasons are why we have not become drastically colder and the massive sheets of ice have not begun to grow and once again cover the earth. brrrrrr.

    If so then must we maintain the levels of CO2 / fossil fuel burning to keep the earth habitable? Because that is what it appears is being argued here. Are we in reality controlling the climate and by extension the next ice age by our fossil fuel burning? Or might we have to increase the burning of fossil fuels as the cycle continues?

    Q: Should we allow the ice sheets to once again grow and cover north America and Europe?

    I vote a resounding, NO. I don’t mind the cold for a couple of months, but not for the next 100 thousand years. Is CO2 really what controls the temperature on earth? Some say yes, and some say no. What say you?

  • wayne

    Good stuff.

    Magicians of the Gods Lecture
    Graham Hancock at Göbekli Tepe in Turkey

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