Scientists: Asteroid Ended ‘Snowball Earth’ Ice Age

A massive asteroid slamming into what’s now Western Australia may have saved Earth from a particularly nasty ice age. That’s according to London scientists, who presented the theory in a study published Tuesday. The ice age in question, known as “Snowball Earth,” left the entire planet covered with a sheet of ice up to three miles thick. It finally ended 2.2 billion years ago when an asteroid hit Australia, leaving a crater 43 miles wide. The impact could have caused 11,000 trillion pounds of water vapor to be released into the atmosphere, creating a greenhouse effect that helped make Earth livable again, the study claims. “The impact event itself might not have been the full reason for a global climate shift,” says Chris Kirkland, co-author of the study. “But if we are in a dynamic period of Earth’s history when other things are happening, this might have been the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

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