Ancient meteor strike triggered massive volcanic eruptions lasting millennia - study

Ancient meteor strike triggered massive volcanic eruptions lasting millennia - study
A chain reaction of volcanic eruptions which shaped the landscape of North America was triggered by a meteor strike nearly two billion years ago, according to a new study.

In a geological study of Canada’s Sudbury Basin, the second largest meteor impact zone on the planet, scientists claim to have found evidence of “long-lived and explosive” eruptions that lasted for hundreds of thousands of years after the meteor struck the Earth.

Published in ‘Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets’, the research suggests that by plowing into the Earth’s surface, the meteor created disruptions under the crust that “progressively fed” volcanic eruptions.

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“In the crater, these took place for a long period of time after the impact, when the basin was flooded with seawater,” a statement on the study read.

Found in Ontario, the Sudbury Basin is one of the oldest examples of an impact crater. It was formed by a large meteor that exploded in the atmosphere around 1.8 billion years ago. Exploding meteors are known as ‘bolides.’

The 10km-wide (6 miles) impact site is surrounded by landmark geological formations such as the Ottawa Bonnechere Graben fault line. Rock deriving from the collision has been found scattered throughout the US.

Now, an international team of scientists believe the basin was in a continuous state of flux after the ancient collision, with a series of violent volcanic eruptions causing lava to mix with seawater.

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The eruptions may have lasted for as long as one million years, reports Live Science.

Balz Kamber, Professor of Geology and Mineralogy at Trinity College Dublin, who was involved in the analysis of rocks at the basin said: “[The] intense bombardment of the early Earth had destructive effects on the planet’s surface but it may also have brought up material from the planet’s interior, which shaped the overall structure of the planet.”

“This is an important finding,” Kamber added. “It means that the magma sourcing the volcanoes was changing with time. The reason for the excitement is that the effect of large impacts on the early Earth could be more serious than previously considered.”