Our planet is a pretty mysterious place, and scientists go at lengths to uncover its secrets. When it comes to studying the varying ages that have taken place on Earth, meteors from space have a lot of influence on the planet’s climate and terrain. Recently, the discovery of a behemoth crater under the ice sheets of Greenland are helping scientists learn more about life on Earth thousands of years ago.
The Hiawatha Glacier
The Hiawatha Glacier is located in northwest Greenland and was mapped out by Lauge Koch in 1922. Before the discovery of an enormous impact crater under the thick sheets of ice, the Inuit and surveyors had stumbled upon iron meteorites in the area.
The crater under the ice of the Hiawatha Glacier has been speculated to be millions of years old, or a mere 12,000 years old. Scientists are excited about dating the crater, because it may help reveal the beginning and end of global cooling periods.
Revealing A Mystery With Radar
Kurt Kjaer and Joseph MacGregor worked together to survey the Hiawatha Glacier. Kjaer took care of funding the expensive venture, as waiting on traditional agencies for funding would take too long. The U.S. military allowed the scientists to conduct their research out of the Thule Air Base in northern Greenland.
Flying overhead the crater site, the scientists used next-generation ice-penetrating radar to get an in-depth look. The radar displayed five bumps prominently in the center of the crater, and a jagged bottom suggested the crater impact was younger than 100,000 years ago. The data collected from the radar showed that the ice layers were jumbled, in relation to the impact of the crater. If a meteor had struck Greenland before it was covered in ice, the crater and the ice would be smooth.
The Impact Of Ages
It is essential for scientists and researchers to study long periods of cooling or warming on the planet, in comparison to more recent climate change, and to better understand Earth’s cycles. When an extinction-level-event took place after a 7.5-mile wide asteroid, the amount of debris thrown into the atmosphere, and rapid cooling disrupted life on the planet. The meteor that created a crater on the Hiawatha Glacier was not so severe, but it did do some damage.
Scientists propose that the impact caused soot and debris to block out light, forests were set ablaze and destabilized ice, and melting water impacted the waterways. The Younger Dryas is a significant point of temperature change on Earth, and the meteor strike on Greenland may have been the catalyst. Temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere might have dropped as much as eight degrees Celcius, and stayed low for 1,000 years.
Disruption And Climate Chaos
Debates are ongoing about how much impact the meteor that caused the crater in Greenland had on species extinction or severe climate change. Many species of animals began to perish before the Younger Dryas period, and any vanishing evidence of nomadic human ancestors may be due to migration.
Connecting this crater to the Younger Dryas period was beginning to unravel, as specimen samples for sediment, soot, and other evidence didn’t necessarily spike around expected time periods. The meteor that caused the discovered crater had to be powerful enough to melt 1500 gigatons of ice, which should have produced more widespread disruption and displacement of water circulation. Varying evidence suggest that the crater impact could be dated as far back as 100,000 years, and not closer to the 12,800 mark.
A Costly Expedition
Some scientists feel that if the impact left at the Hiawatha Glacier is so monumental, that it should have shown evidence of its existence in other nearby sites in Greenland. Samples in similar areas that display 100,000 years of the ice sheet’s history are not matching up. The most that Kjaer and MacGregor can hope for is to be able to drill into the impact site, which is not an inexpensive endeavor.
The crater and meteor impact may not have been the trigger of a massive cooling on the planet, but something occurred. Microscopic diamonds and specimens of glass that was heated to temperatures beyond a volcanic eruption prove that this site deserves more funding and attention for continued research.