Exploring abrupt climate change induced by comets and asteroids during human history

Fireball spewing Comet Schwassman-Wachmann returning in 2011

The revelation that Schwassmann-Wachmann (hereafter SW3) left a cosmic calling card during it’s last pass is significant.  The comet returns every 5.4 years.  The next pass should be around November 2011. Some time around then we could expect another cometary shower.  The intensity of the encounter would seem to be a function of the degree of fragmentation of SW3, which has been underway since at least 1995, and appears entirely unpredictable.

If this same stuff — ball lightning and other weird effects — happened in the deep or relatively recent past, no crater would remain, and the events would be detectable only in myth or stories from isolated locales around the world (and perhaps with more sophisticated and open-minded field investigation).  There was no video back in the day.

That’s about the extent of my knowledge, but it sends a little chill up my spine.  Anyone know of a reason my spine should not so shiver when contemplating the return of SW3’s cometary fireballs?  Don Yeomans??

PS.  Any insight to the exact timing of these events (or non-events the case often is with comets) would be appreciated.  Orbital dynamics are not my thing.

10 Responses

  1. Note the fragment distribution in those images. SW-3 is an Earth crossing orbit. And it is not an uncommon object.

    Someone want to tell me again that multiple impact cluster events are ‘highly unlikely’?

  2. Hi George –

    You’ve noticed. If SW3 doesn’t all turn into magic comet dust,like NASA has been claiming for quite a while, then we have a problem. If SW3 does turn into magic comet dust, then we have a different problem in 2022.


  3. Why 2022 and not the two prior passes? I think I understand but if you could elaborate for the Tuskamers…

  4. This is the very interesting comet that a long with the Shoemaker-Levy 9 Comet at Jupiter is cited as displaying similar but much smaller ongoing disintegration, much like that is believed my many to have affected Earth starting up to 20,000 years ago and continuing on through the Younger Dryas and remaining a threat today. Interesting that it may also pose a threat to Earth. Yes, E.P. how and why is it to be a perceived to be a problem for Earth?

  5. The Comet Linear broke up pretty much the same way SW-3 did.

    The Deep Impact mission to comet TEMPEL 1 showed the head of that comet to have the consistency of a dirty snow bank. It also showed that the object is a geologically active body. Comet HOLMES is unstable, and prone to violent outbursts.  Comet LINEAR , and Comet Scwassmann-Wachmann 3, make it abundantly clear that total, explosive, fragmentation of a comet can occur spontaneously at any time. And it can happen before it even gets close to a planet.

    Mitigation strategies would be limited to civil defense. There would be no turning a cluster of fragments like that aside. If the meek are to inherit the Earth, then the important question becomes; how deep do we need to dig bunkers, and hidey holes?

  6. Dennis –

    Once more you’ve made some mistakes, to put it as politely as I can.

    First off, there is not much doubt that comet fragment showers MAY occur much more frequently than many (not including myself, by the way) ever imagined, and no one here said otherwise. As a matter of fact, that POSSIBLE freqeuncy is why you can not declare that any feature HAS to be from the YD until proved by field data.

    It APPEARS that comets are like cats, each one different. What the surface of one is like INDICATES nothing about what the core of another one is like.

    On fragmentation, SW3 fragmented when it crossed the plane of our solar system, which crossing point just happens to be near Earth’s orbit. Most likely gravitational forces. I’ve never examined Comet LINEAR’s fragmentation.

    The mitigation options are much more complex than you know.

    You don’t believe this but I wish you good luck with your efforts; but then I also wish you would learn to use the conditional, as demonstrated in the CAPS above.


    PS – Its Peter Brown, not Brwon.

  7. There would be no turning a cluster of fragments like that aside. If the meek are to inherit the Earth, then the important question becomes; how deep do we need to dig bunkers, and hidey holes?”
    ahhhhhhhhhhhhh well step one is
    ahhhhh maybe by learning to pray and but most important would be learning to listening like your life depended on it.. for where to put or not to put the bunker,

  8. Actually, Chicken, a cluster of small fragments could pretty well be vaporized by a physics package.

  9. well no matter what barrier you smarty pants throw up .. turtle Island isn’t a safe zone! ;p

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