University of Chicago: Nanodiamonds prove cosmic impact responsible for ancient climate change

university of chicago

Press Statement 

Hot thread at WUWT

Microscopic Diamonds Suggest Cosmic Impact Responsible for Major Period of Climate Change

A new study published in The Journal of Geology provides support for the theory that a cosmic impact event over North America some 13,000 years ago caused a major period of climate change known as the Younger Dryas stadial, or “Big Freeze.”

Around 12,800 years ago, a sudden, catastrophic event plunged much of the Earth into a period of cold climatic conditions and drought. This drastic climate change—the Younger Dryas—coincided with the extinction of Pleistocene megafauna, such as the saber-tooth cats and the mastodon, and resulted in major declines in prehistoric human populations, including the termination of the Clovis culture.

With limited evidence, several rival theories have been proposed about the event that sparked this period, such as a collapse of the North American ice sheets, a major volcanic eruption, or a solar flare.

However, in a study published in The Journal of Geology, an international group of scientists analyzing existing and new evidence have determined a cosmic impact event, such as a comet or meteorite, to be the only plausible hypothesis to explain all the unusual occurrences at the onset of the Younger Dryas period.

Researchers from 21 universities in 6 countries believe the key to the mystery of the Big Freeze lies in nanodiamonds scattered across Europe, North America, and portions of South America, in a 50-million-square-kilometer area known as the Younger Dryas Boundary (YDB) field.

Microscopic nanodiamonds, melt-glass, carbon spherules, and other high-temperature materials are found in abundance throughout the YDB field, in a thin layer located only meters from the Earth’s surface. Because these materials formed at temperatures in excess of 2200 degrees Celsius, the fact they are present together so near to the surface suggests they were likely created by a major extraterrestrial impact event.

In addition to providing support for the cosmic impact event hypothesis, the study also offers evidence to reject alternate hypotheses for the formation of the YDB nanodiamonds, such as by wildfires, volcanism, or meteoric flux.

The team’s findings serve to settle the debate about the presence of nanodiamonds in the YDB field and challenge existing paradigms across multiple disciplines, including impact dynamics, archaeology, paleontology, limnology, and palynology.


One of the oldest journals in geology, The Journal of Geology ( has since 1893 promoted the systematic philosophical and fundamental study of geology.

Download the PDF file .

  • Steve Garcia


    I am reading Thomas Kuhn’s papers/articles right now. He is the guy who came up with the term “Paradigm” back in 1962 that is quite famous. (I can post a link if anyone is interested.)

    I am learning a LOT about the mindset of science and its means of progress and its means and reasons for resisting major changes. Facts/data/evidence are only part of the picture. Another part is the way the individual scientists prioritize the evidence – how much weight they give it. And that depends on the somewhat random order they learned things out of text books, which kind of scientist they wanted to be (explorer or lab tech types), how entrenched in the current paradigm each is, and then how threatened feel.

    Make no mistake about it. If/When the YD impact hypothesis is accepted (perhaps as long from now as a generation, after some of the old defenders of the faith die off) the paradigm known as Uniformitarianism will never rule the roost like it has done for about 150 years. It is a true paradigm shift. The seeds of it are all present already. It only needs to have enough people exposed to it. They can’t side with it if they haven’t been made aware of it. Younger minds are more titillated by new ideas; that is the random part of it, to some extent – the earlier they hear about the YDIH the more likely they are to give it a hearing.

    But there is and will be resistance to the idea from several quarters. There is no getting away from that.

    But it is amazing how bizarrely strained the logic of the defenders of the faith can get. HOUSE FIRES? (Even if they had the trees to build with and enough people…ROFLMAO)

    Let’s first mention a few items:

    13,000 – Syria/Dwellings – Civilization – Population – Scoria – Pack hunting on herds

    13,000 —

    13,000 years ago who was living in Syria? Gobleki Tepe (37.223056, 38.9225) is in southeastern Turkey, not far from the Syrian border and 98 miles from Abu Hureyra. It is an archaeological site that has been deemed the oldest human settlement in the world, at 12,000 years ago. So these people are talking about a full millennium earlier than Gobleki Tepe – which in itself is 2,000 years older than Jericho.*** That is a bit rich, to say the least. The Clovis Barrier people resisted pre-Clovis of just a few hundred years, and they resisted for decades. Gobleki Tepe has STONE structures, quite architecturally developed, actually, so in my OWN mind, there had to be a considerable amount of time for that to develop. It is actually more developed than Stonehenge by quite a bit, having raised carvings of animals on its columns. The site is quite extensive, but so far as I know there are no wooden structures. I could be wrong on that, but I am doubtful at this time.

    *** [Wiki] “However, the spring at what would become Jericho was a popular camping ground for Natufian hunter-gatherer groups, who left a scattering of crescent microlith tools behind them. Around 9600 BCE the droughts and cold of the Younger Dryas Stadial had come to an end, making it possible for Natufian groups to extend the duration of their stay, eventually leading to year round habitation and permanent settlement.

    Syria/Dwellings —

    Take in that on Jericho, and then think about 11,000 years BCE – 1,400 years BEFORE it was possible for the Natufians to settle in Jericho. 1400 years is between us and the Visigoths. And what was there 1400 years before the Natufian settlements? Only 4 HUNDRED years earlier they didn’t have settlements, so what kind of dwellings were burning 1,000 years earlier than THAT? It boggles the mind how un-informed researchers can be outside their own little disciplines.

    Abu Hureyra, Syria (included in the study in question, as well as in YDIH team studies) as I said is very conveniently only about 98 miles from Gobleki Tepe. Take a look on Google Earth at the kinds of houses they build in this part of Syria and Turkey (use Google Earth and its Panoramio photos – and try to find wooden structures.) That is pretty much due to the kinds of building materials that are available – sand and dirt to make bricks from. They don’t build much out of wood there, because wood is a high-value commodity. I am betting that wood has been a high-value commodity there since the last ice age ended. There is not much assumption by me on that, but there is a little – I DID go look, just to make sure. I’ve been in Syria and I didn’t see any wooden buildings that I can recall; everything was brick.)

    So maybe the climate was different then? Well, let’s remember that the last main ice age ended about 18,000 years ago and the global temps (according to the ice cores) were pretty much the same at the YD onset as it is now. That implies 5,000 years of warming temps and global climate much like today. All of which adds up to the likelihood that they did not build houses out of wood. It was along the banks of the Euphrates, so they might have had wood. But with the climate like now, one would think they might be a bit dumb to use their wood when there is enough earthen material all around. They certainly don’t now, even though there are occasional trees. Building houses out of wood implies FORESTS, not occasional trees. And even in the farming areas now, what do they build dwellings out of? NOT WOOD.

    So, basically, they are supposed to have burned non-existent dwellings (1,400 years before such things existed), built of materials that people in that region have no history of building with, and in such vast quantities that a black mat was created.

    Right… NOT

    Civilization —

    Just how many houses do they think those people think HAD 13,000 years ago? What was the world population then? It can be very distorting, looking out from a world of 7 billion, to think that people were living in densely populated settlements – but it would also be wrong. As the Genographic Project of the Nat Geo says,

    Taking root around 12,000 years ago, agriculture triggered such a change in society and the way in which people lived that its development has been dubbed the “Neolithic Revolution.” Traditional hunter-gatherer lifestyles, followed by humans since their evolution, were swept aside in favor of permanent settlements and a reliable food supply. Out of agriculture, cities and civilizations grew, and because crops and animals could now be farmed to meet demand, the global population rocketed—from some five million people 10,000 years ago, to more than seven billion today.

    The population of modern Syria, for example is 22.85 million people – 4.5 times the ENTIRE WORLD population at 10,000 years ago, much less 13,000 ya. Note also that according to this source the agricultural revolution – which made the settlements POSSIBLE – did not start until THREE thousand years later. So, according to the anthropologists, settlements didn’t exist for the hunter-gatherers of 13,000 years ago.

    Scoria —

    Now let’s go to scoria. Look up scoria and what you find is that scoria is PUMICE. As in from VOLCANOES. Now, the paper (Thy et al, 2014) doesn’t call it scoria, even though the ARTICLE calls it that. The abstract calls it “siliceous scoria” – which is not correct. Sloppy research, sloppy article to an even higher degree (the journalist didn’t even bother eucating himself enough to use the correct terms). It is NOT scoria, whether siliceous or not. There is no such thing as siliceous scoria.

    [Wiki] “Siliceous rocks are sedimentary rocks that have silica (SiO2) as the principal constituent.

    [Wiki] “Scoria is a highly vesicular, dark colored volcanic rock that may or may not contain crystals (phenocrysts). It is typically dark in color (generally dark brown, black or purplish red), and basaltic or andesitic in composition. Scoria is relatively low in mass as a result of its numerous macroscopic ellipsoidal vesicles, but in contrast to pumice, all scoria has a specific gravity greater than 1, and sinks in water.

    Ted Bunch is the one from our side of the discussion who brought Siliceous scoria-like materials to the discussion, in his 2012 paper. Ted Bunch could tell the difference between actual scoria and siliceous rocks. Thy and his co-researchers evidently didn’t bother looking it up. (I am basing that on the abstract. I can’t tell exactly WHAT they know, because they statee it incorrectly in the abstract – and I don’t have $40 US to plop down for every paper that comes along. I wish I did). Bunch wrote, about his SLOs:

    In addition, three sites (Abu Hureyra, Syria; Melrose, Pennsylvania; and Blackville, South Carolina) display vesicular, high-temperature, siliceous scoria-like objects, or SLOs, that match the spherules geochemically. We compared YDB objects with melt products from a known cosmic impact (Meteor Crater, Arizona) and from the 1945 Trinity nuclear airburst in Socorro, New Mexico, and found that all of these high-energy events produced material that is geochemically and morphologically comparable, including: (i) high-temperature, rapidly quenched microspherules and SLOs; (ii) corundum, mullite, and suessite (Fe3Si), a rare meteoritic mineral that forms under high temperatures; (iii) melted SiO2 glass, or lechatelierite, with flow textures (or schlieren) that form at > 2,200 °C; and (iv) particles with features indicative of high-energy interparticle collisions. These results are inconsistent with anthropogenic, volcanic, authigenic, and cosmic materials, yet consistent with cosmic ejecta, supporting the hypothesis of extraterrestrial airbursts/impacts 12,900 years ago. The wide geographic distribution of SLOs is consistent with multiple impactors.

    Pack hunting of herd animals —

    It shows how weak their entire stance is when they pick what they think is the weakest animal out of the herd of evidence that the YDIH researchers put up. The skpetics target a young animal and try to weed it out of the herad by pack tactics – leaving all the srong animals/arguments/evidence in place and hope that they can convince others by picking holes in the weakest aspects of the research.

    THEN they go to an amenable science journalist (read: someone who can’t actually do science himself) and trumpet their attack as a complete and utter proof that the YDIH in its entirety is bogus. As if yelling louder makes something more correct.

    If they want to attack something, they really need to attack the central evidence, the strongest evidence – and then do their own damned lab work.

    On a scale of 1 to 5, I give this a ZERO. A really LAME idea – really stretching credulity. BURNING BRICK OR STONE HOUSES. I live in one, and I guarantee that it is fireproof – except for the paint. AND IF SUCH HOUSES BURNED, THE CHARRED STONES OR BRICKS WOULD STILL BE VERY APPARENT. You can’t undo overcooking of bricks. Where are the bricks – especially well over 1,000 years before the earliest human settlements in the world?

    Oy vey!!!!

  • Steve Garcia

    Gentlemen –

    I DO apologize that some of my comments are long.

    1. Some skeptics’ thinking is mind-bogglingly uninformed about various topics.

    2. This paper and article are so obviously wrong on several fronts (the history of man, the development of civilization, the world population, the building materials). Not enough people, not enough trees, not enough development…

    3. Is that the best they can do?

  • David L Ulrich

    I think you summed it up fine. I also don’t have the 40 bucks. That amounts to one tank of gas. I’m really disappointed it came from UCD. WOW. And a question about where people lived. This has come out —- just a thought — they say this is only 5000 years old. I’m just not buying this stuff. Grabbing at straws is a good answer.

    And I have Andrew Collins book on Gobleki Tepe. It will take time to read and study. These “so called” fringe guys have their shit together way more then the “paradigm”. Who’s calling who “fringe”. (chuckle).

    I would like to read that news item you have about “paradigm”. Sounds interesting. More of a question of how we got here. And then there is (of very current) these artifacts — the lead crosses of Arizona and Scott Wolter. You talk about the paradigm taking it in the shorts – so to speak (just another example). The reason for this little side note is the “in situ” material — consolidated caliche (hardpan). The historians say it is recent but the geologists (who work with rocks) say otherwise. Go figure.

  • David L Ulrich

    in regards to the webpage about “agriculture”. They don’t show the “solutrean” routes. hummmm…….

  • Steve Garcia

    David –

    Your last paragraph at 11:26am lost me. Can you clarify?

    …Yeah, the “dwellings” thing is so utterly ill-educated it beggars belief – massive burning of human dwellings at a time 1400 years before ANY dwellings existed ANYWHERE. Yoy! Don’t they know anything?

    Andrew Collins probably has a good take on and LOTS of information about Gobleki Tepe. I think it was very convenient for me that Abu Hureyra was so close to it, too! It was so easy to make the comparisons. Having also traveled BY OUR CAR in the middle east – including Turkey and Syria! – I know that, dude, they just don’t HAVE wooden structures there.

    You can’t burn what doesn’t exist yet nor in an area that doesn’t use flammable materials for “dwellings”.

  • Steve Garcia

    The article: “The study concludes that the scoria formed when fires ripped through buildings made of a mix of local soil and straw.”

    Oh, really? Nope. The ratio of straw-to-mud is far too low, below burning threshold for ignition or for propagation of the fire. The fire can neither catch nor migrate from one brick to the next.

    The straw is so buried within the INSULATING brick that oxygen cannot get to enough of the straw materials surface to ignite or stay lit. Only the very small cross-sectional area of any straw extends to the end of any brick. So that straw would have little to no chance to ignite, and then with 99.9% of the straw piece embedded in the dried mud, the lack of available fuel and impossibility of the oxygen to get to the 99.9% straw mass says that the fire goes out or never even starts. Few straw strands touch each other, so how – WITHIN THE DRIED BRICK – does the fire move from one piece of straw to another?

    Wrong on so many counts.

    If they ran lab tests on both ignition and propagation, I will stand corrected, but I don’t think they did. (Like I said, the abstract is all that is available.)

    I will point out again that I have worked several years with industrial kilns and ovens, in the design of them, so I know quite a bit about what it takes to burn and keep burning. I can call in at least one of my old co-designers if I need to.

  • David L Ulrich

    I just put that there as to show the 12.9 barrier theme song is still being used on very current history.

    maybe someday, the song will disappear and we can just deal with “FACTS”.

  • Trent Telenko

    >>“The study concludes that the scoria formed when fires ripped through buildings
    >>made of a mix of local soil and straw.”

    This guy is really saying that the straw _inside_an_Adobe_brick_ caught fire?

    I don’t know who is more stupid here. The guy who wrote it, the people who published it, or the readers who might believe such Horse S***.

    Any 1970’s California primary school student, with the history they taught about building of the Spanish missions, can spot the utter lunacy of that statement.

  • Trent Telenko

    Steve G,

    You need to post your January 8, 2015 at 2:11 am screed above over on Watts Up With That’s post on that article.

  • Steve Garcia

    Trent –

    I can’t say for sure if the guy is actually saying that the straw INSIDE an adobe brick caught fire, but the article ended with mention of the mud and straw brick construction. What other conclusion can we draw without the full paper? SOMEONE put that into the “journalist’s” head.

    Eben funnier than ONE adobe bvrick catching fire, but the amount of carbon in the black layer AND the paper’s authors saying that the fire came from “dwellings” also says that someone thinks that one flaming adobee brick caught the rest of that house and all the others in town on fire.


    Lunacy, indeed. . . That was my point. Thanks for actually reacting to it properly – with incredulity that anyone could be that dumb.

  • Steve Garcia

    Trent –

    We should continue this discussion over at

    The full paper is posted there, too!


    Now to read it so we know what level of lunacy this really is…

  • Barry Weathersby
  • Steve Garcia

    Barry –

    Yeah, if the lightning melts certain minerals in the ash and they are molten as they fall, some should be able to cool and solidify.

    This is literally is a method of making metal balls, even ball bearing balls. They drop molten steel in at the top of a very tall stack. The molten metal balls take on the shape of spheres will deform if there is ANY turbulence or resistance, so what they do is blow DOWNWARD, at a velocity matching the balls downward velocity. They taper the side walls to accelerate the air to match the increasing velocity of the balls – the narrower the side walls, the faster the air moves. The balls solidify on the way down and at the bottom are carried away on conveyors to be sized and inspected. They make ball bearing balls of really close tolerances this way, with no machining, as far as I know. I was really impressed with the ingenuity of the people who thought this up.

    So, if ash clouds clouds can do all of this, too, then they should be able to form glass balls. I know from long ago that storm clouds have down drafts. So the question is: Do ash clouds have down drafts? It seems difficult for the molten glass balls to not encounter dry ash particles, but it doesn’t seem impossible. I wonder if these glass balls are common or rare – or somewhere in between.

  • Barry Weathersby

    Interesting… I know a a pyroclastic density current is gravity driven and creates it’s own downdraft. But at 450 MPH or so I doubt the balls are too uniform.

  • Steve Garcia

    I agree. I don’t think the balls would be uniform in size. As molten who knows what sized blobs they are? But if molten, then surface tension will pull them into a spherical shape, more or less regardless of volume/diameter. The least energy level is what it attempts to achieve.

  • jim coyle

    That is an interesting concept! I have to wonder if the distance the glass has to fall has any bearing on the shaping into spheres. In the steel ball production I’m sure the drop tower is 200 ft +-. So being able to fall thousands of feet not counting up and down drafts the formation may be similar to hail.

  • Steve Garcia

    Yeah, Jim, the tower height is up there pretty good. 200 feet sounds about like what I recall.

    And, yes, in my understanding, the formation is like hail. I assume that most of the ash cloud is rising due to pressure below and the convection. The pressure from below I would think is mostly from the expanding CO2 (which creates/shreds the ash from magma in the first place) as the magma clears the mouth of the volcano and the external holding pressure is removed.

    The only question would be if there are downdrafts. I would guess that they would be higher up in the column, where it is roiling, or above that. A downdraft would be a counter-current, so there would have to be some turbulence in general. Localized? I am guessing that downdrafts are only localized.

    I can’t see this occurring in an updraft, because the weight of the molten glass would be tending to go downward, against the main upward ash flow. Besides turbulence, there would be ash hitting it.

    Raindrops falling are not spherical, though they want to be. The end up looking something like distorted blood cells or cough drops – toroidal near the rim and flattened and sometimes thinner across the middle – then they parachute up and tear. Google “raindrop high speed photo” and look for images, if you want to see what I mean. Example: