Research ArticlePLANETARY SCIENCE

An extraterrestrial trigger for the mid-Ordovician ice age: Dust from the breakup of the L-chondrite parent body

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Science Advances  18 Sep 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 9, eaax4184
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aax4184

Abstract

The breakup of the L-chondrite parent body in the asteroid belt 466 million years (Ma) ago still delivers almost a third of all meteorites falling on Earth. Our new extraterrestrial chromite and 3He data for Ordovician sediments show that the breakup took place just at the onset of a major, eustatic sea level fall previously attributed to an Ordovician ice age. Shortly after the breakup, the flux to Earth of the most fine-grained, extraterrestrial material increased by three to four orders of magnitude. In the present stratosphere, extraterrestrial dust represents 1% of all the dust and has no climatic significance. Extraordinary amounts of dust in the entire inner solar system during >2 Ma following the L-chondrite breakup cooled Earth and triggered Ordovician icehouse conditions, sea level fall, and major faunal turnovers related to the Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event.

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