Rapid short-term cooling following the Chicxulub impact at the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary

Johan Vellekoop*, Appy Sluijs, Jan Smit, Stefan Schouten, Johan W H Weijers, Jaap S. Sinninghe Damsté, Henk Brinkhuis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The mass extinction at the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary, ~66 Ma, is thought to be caused by the impact of an asteroid at Chic-xulub, present-day Mexico. Although the precise mechanisms that led to this mass extinction remain enigmatic, most postulated scenarios involve a short-lived global cooling, a so-called "impact winter" phase. Here we document a major decline in sea surface temperature during the first months to decades following the impact event, using TEX86 paleothermometry of sediments from the Brazos River section, Texas. We interpret this cold spell to reflect, to our knowledge, the first direct evidence for the effects of the formation of dust and aerosols by the impact and their injection in the stratosphere, blocking incoming solar radiation. This impact winter was likely a major driver of mass extinction because of the resulting global decimation of marine and continental photosynthesis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7537-7541
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number21
Publication statusPublished - 27 May 2014


  • Bolide impact
  • Climate change
  • K-Pg boundary
  • Organic paleothermometry


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