Research

Megaripples Beneath Louisiana

An artist's conception of the Chicxulub impact.

Approximately 66 million years ago, a 10-km asteroid struck our planet near Chicxulub on the Yucatán Peninsula. The impact was globally catastrophic, causing tsunamis, wildfires, earthquakes, and so much atmosphere-clogging sediment that about 75% of all species on the planet — including the non-avian dinosaurs — died out. A new study points to another remnant of the impact: giant ripples buried in the sediment of Louisiana.

Seismic data shows giant ripples left behind by the tsunami following the Chicxulub impact.

Using seismic data collected by petroleum companies, the researchers describe the ripples as approximately 16 meters tall with a spacing around 600 meters, making them the largest known ripples on the planet. Currently, they are buried about 1500 meters underground, just below a layer of fine debris associated with the impact. The ripples show no evidence of erosion from storms or wind, leading the authors to conclude that they were deposited by an impact-associated tsunami and remained unaffected by smaller natural disasters before their burial. It’s very likely, according to the authors, that many other such megaripples exist, hidden away in proprietary petroleum data sets. (Image credits: top – D. Davis/SWRI, ripples – G. Kinsland et al.; research credit: G. Kinsland et al.; via Gizmodo)

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