Asteroids Are One Way to Mess With Texas

Scientists are currently drilling into an asteroid-impacted crater in the Yucatán Peninsula that jacked up Houston and Texas 65 million years ago.
Scientists are currently drilling into an asteroid-impacted crater in the Yucatán Peninsula that jacked up Houston and Texas 65 million years ago.

Waves as high as the tallest modern-day skyscrapers in Houston. Tsunamis jumping out of the Gulf of Mexico and flowing halfway to Dallas. An insane collapse of the coastline.

This was the scene in Houston more than 65 million years ago following an asteroid’s collision with Earth. And that asteroid didn’t even hit close to H-Town.

Scientists say that Texas has been nailed with three asteroid events over its history – the Odessa Meteor Crater, the Marquez Crater and the Sierra Madera Crater – but the one that bulldozed into the Yucatán Peninsula 65 million years ago (i.e., before the Texas Department of Transportation coined “Don’t Mess With Texas”) did the most damage by far.

“Chicxulub Crater had more of an impact than the other three combined,” says Dr. David Kring, Ph.D. of the Universities Space Research Association’s Lunar and Planetary Institute. “It’s the dinosaur-killing one.”

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Kring explains that Chicxulub produced tsunamis all over what’s now Houston, which was submerged under water at the time.

“The heights of the waves were 30 to 50 meters high, which is a conservative estimate,” says Kring. “Some models have the height of the waves at 100 to 300 meters, which is the height of some of Houston’s tallest buildings.”

Asteroids Are One Way to Mess With Texas
Lunar and Planetary Institute/David A. Kring

There were also earthquakes, which buried the sea floor in 400 meters of sand and annihilated all marine life. “When you go to Galveston today, you’re swimming above tsunami and earthquake deposits,” says Kring, who will talk about Texas’s changes from Chicxulub during the Houston Museum of Natural Science Distinguished Lecture Series “Asteroid Day 2017: Impacting Asteroids in Texas.”

Kring is part of the International Continental Drilling Program, which is investigating Chicxulub Crater to learn more about what happened millions of years ago on the other side of the Gulf of Mexico. ICDP, in collaboration with the International Ocean Discovery Program, is currently drilling a borehole into the peak ring of the crater; results are expected later in the year.

At 6:30 p.m. Thursday, June 29, David Kring, Ph.D., of the Lunar and Planetary Institute will present the lecture “Asteroid Day 2017 – Impacting Asteroids in Texas” during the Houston Museum of Natural Science Distinguished Lecture Series at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, 5555 Hermann Park Drive. For information, call 713-639-4629 or visit hmns.org.$12 to $18.


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