According to the American Geophysical Union’s new global model of the shock tsunami caused by the fall of an asteroid in the Gulf of Mexico 66 million years ago, the destructive wave was observed in all corners of the Earth and at the beginning had a height of almost 2 km.

The most common theory now for the Cretaceous extinction, about 66 million years ago, the same one that ended the reign of the dinosaurs on Earth, is the theory of the collision of the Earth with a comet or an asteroid. The most likely fall site is Chicxulub Crater near the Yucatan Peninsula in the Gulf of Mexico.

The modern diameter of the crater is 150 km, it was formed by a meteorite with a diameter of about 10 km. The initial depth of the crater was about 30 km. The energy of the collision is estimated at 100,000 gigatons in TNT equivalent (the largest fusion device had a power of about 0.05 gigatons).

According to the new model, the height of the tsunami at the impact city was about 2 km, and it caused sea levels to rise in all corners of the Earth and exposed the sea floor thousands of kilometers from the impact site. Even an hour after the collision, the height of the waves in the Gulf of Mexico reached 300 m. It took almost a week for the gigantic tsunami that occurred 66 million years ago to disperse.

According to the authors’ calculations, the total energy of the tsunami was 30,000 times greater than that of the destructive tsunami of 2004 after the Indian Ocean earthquake. We will remind, at that time the maximum height of the wave was only 50 m, but it led to the death of almost 300 thousand people.


To test their models with geological evidence, the authors examined 120 geological sites before and after the asteroid hit and found evidence of a global tsunami that was felt as far away as modern-day New Zealand. The authors compared these deposits with waves and erosion predicted by their models.

Although the new study did not model coastal inundation, when the tsunami approached coastal regions of the North Atlantic and parts of the Pacific coast of South America, waves could reach heights of more than 10 meters.

As the tsunami approached these shorelines and encountered shallow water, the height of the waves increased dramatically through a process called shoaling. Waves of this height could well have caused significant flooding, and in the future the authors of the new model are going to investigate this assumption.