The planetary scarring of the Younger Dryas impact event

If you want to understand an explosive event after the fact you study the motions, and chemistry, of the blast effected materials.

Here we study the motions, and emplacement, of blast effected materials formed in an explosive event in order to understand the event itself. Specifically, we are looking at the fluid emplacement motions of sheet ignimbrites, geo-ablative airburst blast ejecta, and non-volcanogenic melt formations, in North America to determine a true picture of the nature of the explosive events they formed in.

Impact melt is often mistaken as volcanic tuff. But no matter where you find them, and no matter the source of heat, and pressure, that melted, and moved them, ignimbrites (literally, ‘fire cloud rock’ ) are always formed in a violent explosive event. And as a blast effected material they are always a direct signature of  the explosive, fluid, motions of their formation, and emplacement; no proxy required.

Each researcher looking into the extinction level, extraterrestrial impact, events evidenced by the materials of the Younger Dryas Boundary layer has his, or her, own take on what kind of event the blast effected materials detected there describe. My own view arises out of a forensic study of the fluid motions of the Ignimbrites of central Mexico, and west Texas. Combined with the recent research on the Younger Dryas Boundary layer at various sites all over the continent, and drawing heavily on the work of William Napier on the Taurid meteor complex, an extraordinary story begins to emerge.

EarthMoon If we think of the Earth and Moon as a binary system, or gravity well, then it is fair to assume that if objects randomly enter that gravity well, then they should divide proportionately according to the sizes of the individual attractors in that system. Or to put it more simply: We must get hit about six times more often than the moon, and by bigger objects. All of the landforms on the moon, every mountain range, every depression, every feature you can see, are impact related. Anyone with a toy telescope can look up on a clear night and see whole mountain ranges that were raised up in seconds sometime in the past. The study of astronomy gives us a pretty good idea of the frequency of the various sizes of impacts. And anyone can look at the erosion of land forms here on Earth and see how slow that process is.

But when we consider all of those factors at the same time we come to an uncomfortable paradox. There should be a lot more impact structures; big ones, clearly visible, with little or no erosion. In fact, there must be at least one major mountain range on the Earth, however old, or deeply eroded, that owes its very existence to an extra-terrestrial impact or explosion. And yet, there is not a single accepted theory that allows for extra-terrestrial events as one of the possible driving forces in landform creation.

To be fair, in all of recorded history there hasn’t been a single significant ballistic cratering event like we see in the simulations. We don’t even hear about a classic, ballistic cratering, impact event like the simulations show in the archetypes of our most ancient of myths, and legends. But the firestorm of mass extinction impacts that wiped out North America a few thousand years ago did happen. We have the burned bones of the corpses for proof.

And we have other materials that tell us conclusively of the heat and pressure that must have happened at some places on the continent.  Such heat and pressure is only found in an ET impact event. Those specific materials are the nano-diamonds found in the Younger Dryas Boundary layer (YDB). (Firestone et al 2007, 2009, Kennett et al 2008,2009) They are important for the fact that they weren’t brought here. Rather they were formed in the atmosphere during the violent explosions of multiple comet fragments. And the heat, and pressure, required to produce them makes them a valid proxy for understanding the atmospheric conditions they formed in. They are a barometer, and pyrometer, rolled up into one.

The nano-diamonds originated in unimaginably hot, and violent, above ground explosions, right here in the skies of earth. And Nano diamonds being found all over the world just means the violent conditions of heat, and pressure, it takes to form them are not uncommon at all. It doesn’t make the detection of their existence any less significant. It makes it more so. When you hear ancient legends of a fiery rain of stones, or fire coming down from the sky, you are most likely  hearing an oral history account of a nano-diamond producing, thermal impact, event. The widespread detection of them confirms those ancient stories as actual history, not mere myth.

Many of the opponents of the Younger Dryas impact hypothesis have seized on the idea that a really big, fast moving, bolide doesn’t have time to break up before some of it hits the ground, and makes a crater.  But who says a comet has to arrive in one piece?



We aren’t talking about a dense, rocky asteroid that broke up when it got here. We are talking about a fragmented comet. The Deep Impact mission to comet TEMPEL 1 showed the head of that comet to have the consistency of a dirty snow bank. It also showed that the object is a geologically active body. Comet HOLMES is unstable, and prone to violent outbursts. Comet LINEAR , Comet Scwassmann-Wachmann 3, make it abundantly clear that total, explosive, fragmentation of a comet can occur spontaneously at any time. And it can happen before it even gets close to a planet. It doesn’t need the atmosphere to do that

Mark Boslough, at Sandia Labs has done a super computer simulation that depicts the atmospheric effects of an above ground blast like Tunguska but much larger. It shows the object exploding high in the atmosphere. But it retains it’s momentum. And, in a moving explosion, all of  the kinetic energy continues on down to the ground in the form of a supersonic downdraft shock wave hotter than the surface of the sun. Dr Boslough simulated a single bolide. The blast effected materials of the event describe a giant cloud of fragments such as that.

For comparison, an ordinary oxy-acetylene cutting torch in a steel shop uses a thin stream of hot gases at only about 1600 degrees F. and 40 PSI. to cut steel. The speed of that stream of hot gasses is only a little bit more than a stiff breeze. But that’s all it takes to turn solid iron into a melted, aerosol, spray. And to blow it away in runnels of melt into heaps of slag.

The nano-diamonds found in the Younger Dryas boundary layer are significant in that they formed under hot, violent, explosive, atmospheric conditions all over the north American continent that should have been able to do that to whole mountain ranges. Those conditions of intense heat, and pressure can only happen in an impact event. And yet no one has ever found a crater. But that much heat, and pressure, only goes away peacefully in children’s bedtime stories.  So, since the surface scars the impact firestorm made must be here right under our feet, then maybe the pretty, perfect circle, craters we see on the Moon, and Mars, and that we’ve come to assume we should expect here on Earth as well, aren’t what we should be looking for at all. But if we’re not looking for round craters, then what kinds of planetary scaring are we looking for?

The atmosphere translated nearly all of the kinetic energy into heat. But it didn’t dissipate it. And contrary to standard impact theory, the most common forces acting on the ground in an airburst impact event are heat, and pressure, not kinetic shock. The reason that round craters are rare, isn’t because we rarely get hit. They are rare because we rarely get hit by lone, non-explosive, rocky bolides, or asteroids.

It turns out that the Tunguska object was only rare in that it arrived alone. And it was such a puny little thing. A large, highly fragmented, cluster of comet fragments is a much more frightening kind of monster; and much more common. The form the planetary scaring takes is characterized as a non-volcanic melting event hot enough to make stone flow like water for a moment. And since almost all of the object’s energy is translated to heat, and pressure, ballistic/kinetic shock has almost nothing to do with it.

Most of the fragments of the comet arrived in two, streams, or clusters. One cluster hit the Laurentide Ice sheet in the Great Lakes region. The other hit a  in central Mexico, and the American southwest. And out of tens of thousands of large, air-bursting, fragments there is not one single impact structure that bares any resemblance to what standard impact theory might expect. In fact, due to the fact that standard, 19th century, landform theory can not conceive such heat, and pressure, coming from anywhere but terrestrial volcanism, all of the planetary scarring of the event has been mis-defined as volcanogenic. And the ages of those blast effected materials have been over estimated by orders of magnitude.

This was no ordinary impact event. And the processes of detonation responsible for the intense heat the impacts produced, were like nothing anyone has ever imagined, much less studied. The clusters of comet fragments consisted of tens of thousands of objects much bigger than the Tunguska object of 1908. And in central Mexico the density of the fragments was so high that only the very first of the fragments on the leading edge of the clusters fell into cold atmosphere. The rest fell into already superheated atmosphere, and just added to the heat, and pressure. In this way, almost all of the Comet’s kinetic energy was translated into heat in the atmosphere. As a result, the planetary scarring is the product of a thermal atmospheric, geo-ablative, processes. Not a solid bolide, ballistic/kinetic impact with the ground.

The the fragments of the comet  hit the Earth at a very low angle coming in very fast from the southeast. The eastern end of the Laurentide Ice sheet got hit  in an area from Northern Minnesota, and the Great Lakes to the Arctic Circle.   The other major cluster of fragments hit Mexico.  The impact showers finished up after the Earth had been in the path of the devastating streams of high velocity, air bursting comet fragments for about an hour.

When the first down-blasts of thermal impact plasma hit the ice sheet they caused titanic, hot and powerful, hydrothermal explosions (steam) that lofted huge icebergs hundreds of miles in all directions.

A few short minutes later, those flying chunks of ice were the impactites that formed the thousands of oval depressions all over the eastern side of the continent called the “Carolina Bays”. And the signs of massive flooding that have been attributed by generations of geologists to the bursting of ice damns holding back Glacial lake Agassiz are, in fact, the flood effects of the flash melting, and total breakup, of the entire eastern end of the Laurentide ice sheet. In a matter of minutes, most of the eastern end of the LIS was obliterated. Much of it went into the atmosphere as steam. The immense hydrothermal explosions also lofted the iceberg sized chunks of ice that produced the Carolina Bays when they fell back to Earth. And any remaining ice was well on its way to the Arctic Ocean, and the north Atlantic; rafted along on a mega-floods of melted ice. A catastrophic sudden rise in sea levels worldwide had begun.

This was a truly giant comet. Had it not broken up before it got here, and hit in one piece, we wouldn’t be here.. You can get hit fifty times with fifty pounds of force and you can still survive the blows. You may be bruised, and battered, but you stand a good chance of a full recovery. But if all of that force is in one blow of 2500 pounds that’ll be the end of you.

This comet didn’t hit as a single point bolide of ordinary rock, or ice. It hit as multiple, high velocity, clusters, and streams of very high velocity fragments. There were tens of thousands of fragments bigger than the Tunguska object. And they were accompanied by clouds of smaller fragments, and  particles as small as dust grains. 

The most devastating geo-ablative effects were in central Mexico, and the American Southwest. In seconds all of central Mexico was pulverized into a surreal, and blasted, landscape of geo-ablative melt, and ablated mountains, like a Salvador Dali painting. It generated a post impact mega tsunami of thermal impact plasma taller than the atmosphere, hundreds of miles wide,  and hundreds of miles from front to back, that rushed downrange to the northwest at supersonic speeds. And it sterilized the western half of the continent on a swath from Mexico to the Arctic, along a storm front extending from California to the great plains.

The Mexican cluster of fragments was approximately 500 miles wide. As the first of the fragments hit they detonated high in the atmosphere. But the explosions retained their momentum. And they hit the ground as devastating supersonic down blasts hotter than the surface of the sun. And as I said, Only the very first fell into cold atmosphere. The rest of the fragments just piled on in, and added to the heat, and pressure. The overpressures from the blast waves were so powerful they blasted whole mountain ranges aside like clumps of flour on a bakers table. And still, they continued to pile in. And the heat, and overpressures, continued to build. R.B Firestone et al (2007) cited Toon et al when they proposed that, in some places the temperature may have went as high as 10^7 degrees C. It was so hot the heat had stripped most the electrons, and protons from the nuclei. It was in a very highly ionized plasma state. All the free electrons made it a superconductor. And the heat began to flow electrically. What has been called a ‘firestorm’ might be more accurately described as a magneto-hydro-dynamic, thermal plasma storm. At 30km/sec it is difficult to get that much heat from the translation of a bolide’s kinetic energy to heat. At the speed the comet would have been moving 10^5 deg C would be more plausible. But  that’s ok. Because even if we use the more realistic, and conservative, figure of 100,000 degrees C, the atmosphere of the impact zones was no longer just hot gasses anymore. We still get a ‘substantial plasma’.

We should note that in heavily ionized, hyper-thermal, high pressure, plasma, state there is no known substance on the surface of the Earth strong enough to resist the onslaught of such heat and pressure.

The blast wind incinerated everything it passed over. In the hottest part of the impact zone, vast quantities of stone were vaporized, and whipped up into the storm, where the atmosphere worked like a refining tower. And in a fiery rain the materials precipitated out of the impact storm down wind according to their condensation temperature, and specific gravity. This was like nothing ever imagined in our most frightening nightmares of disaster, or catastrophe. During the impacts, and for a few minutes after, most of North America from Mexico to the Arctic, and from California, to the plains of the Midwest, was engulfed in what might best be described as a full blown magneto-hydro-dynamic plasma storm. Like something we should only expect to find on the surface of the sun.  And there is not one square inch of the surface terrains of western North America in its path that doesn’t bare the scars of that blast of heat.

All of the high ridges of the mountain ranges of California, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and Montana that had glaciers at the time bare clear and obvious signs of the heat. And a profound feature that is easy to spot is melted glacial ridges, blown over to the north and northwest like runnels of melted wax on the side of a candle. And we very typically see high glacial valleys below those melted ridges that have all of the material that was once suspended in the Glacier lying exactly below where it was in the glacier. It’s as if the ice just vanished in a quick puff of steam The ice evaporated so fast there was no flow of water down slope to move any of the glacial till.  And when the blast wave got to Montana, and Idaho, it broke up the ice damn blocking the Clark Fork river in northern Idaho releasing the flood waters of Glacial Lake Missoula down the Grande Coulee.

The eastern end of the ice sheet was pounded just as hard as Mexico. But the ice added another factor to consider in understanding the blast effects. Under the thermal airburst down-blasts, the ice reacted explosively  like reactive armor on a battle tank. The impacts into the ice sheet triggered titanic hydrothermal explosions that lofted huge berg sized chunks of ice for hundreds of miles forming the ’Carolina Bays’. Sea levels rose in a matter of days as the blasted, and melted ice sheet flowed in mega floods to the sea. And just as today, most of the larger populations would have been in low lying areas. The seas rose too fast or anyone, and anything, living in coastal areas anywhere in the world, to escape. Every coastline all over the world was effected. And everywhere it would have been much like a giant tsunami. But this time the flood waters rose and never receded.

The ice sheet impacts evaporated millions of acre feet of water directly into the atmosphere. With all that extra water in the atmosphere it began to rain. And it rained, and rained, and rained. There was probably much more of the ice sheet that went up as steam, only to rain down in the days, and weeks, that followed than was melted to flow into the sea. As North America burned, the storms around the world raged. It rained everywhere for weeks.

A mass of ice bigger than the Continental United States was destroyed. The whole world was shaken to the core. And, like taking weight from a floating barge, the sudden shift of the weight of so much ice caused a massive uplift of the middle of the continent. Coupled with the powerful detonations of so many exploding comet fragments , it caused earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions all over the world. And global seismic activity was the worst in many millions of years.

While the mega floods from the blasted ice sheet were still flowing into the sea. Most of the biomass of western North America was burned away and much of the resultant smoke, and soot was blown high above the atmosphere where it blocked sunlight for years. And there was an immediate sharp drop in temperatures world wide. It was the worst kind of ’Perfect Storm’. Made all the worse because at the same time the destruction of the LIS caused a sudden rise in sea levels world wide. It it may have caused a shutdown of the thermal haline cycle which brings tropical warmth to the North Atlantic.  Be that as it may, Northern Europe quickly cooled to arctic temperatures.  And the cold remained for centuries.

The Clovis people, and whole species, and ecosystems, were annihilated in seconds. Most of the western half of the continent was incinerated, and sterilized. The other half was devastated. The food chain of the entire northern hemisphere was severely compromised. And except. for rare, and random, patches here, and there, that remained somehow unscathed like the one surviving undamaged house in a neighborhood hit by a tornado. The lush savannah the giant animals of North America depended on for food was gone down to the last blade of grass. Those giant animals that survived in the southeast corner of the continent faced a drastically altered, and reduced food supply. And they simply starved. The specialist predators that depended on those animals for food perished as well. The species that survived extinction were the most adaptable, the smaller ones that didn’t eat much, and those that were just plain lucky.

If there were any human survivors of that day, anywhere in the western hemisphere, they were hiding in a deep cave somewhere well south of the impact zone. And they were cringing in terror as their world was erased and made new again. Any who peeked out of the cave without getting themselves killed, may have told stories of fire breathing dragons remaking the world with breath so hot it could melt mountains.

Some of the exact details of the story you have just read are conjecture. But it is based on actual fact. And its complete truth is clearly, and legibly, written in the rocks of the Earth.

In fact it will be seen that the younger Dryas impacts were vastly different from anything described by current impact theory. And more violent than anything ever imagined. And that the actual, verifiable, geologic processes that produced the planetary scarring of the event are completely inconceivable from any standard uniformitarian geology viewpoint. As a result, all of the easily verifiable blast effected materials of the Younger Dryas impacts have been mis-defined as volcanogenic.

This was a very different kind of impact event . It was caused by the thermal airbursts of objects different from anything ever studied before. And they produced planetary scarring more devastating than anything ever imagined before.


Published on December 28, 2009 at 1:42 pm  Comments (2)  

2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. One wonders about these events in relation to legends of ancient civilizations… could they actually have existed and been obliterated by such blasts? If paleontologists could take these ideas onboard, it might make them realize that their fossil hunting is a lot more complex than ordinary decay and erosion would mandate.

    • Indeed, in fact, I think it is quite probable that whole, highly advanced, civilizations have existed for thousands of years in the past, only to have been erased without a trace in a thermal-ablative impact event. Many of the ancient stories that depict comets as fire breathing dragons with breath so hot it can melt stone are beginning to have a ring of truth, like oral history.

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