The extinction is believed to have been caused by climate change. Records show that temperatures were relatively warm around 35 million years ago. Based on geologic data, it is believed that between 36 and 34 million years ago a comet/asteroid shower occurred on Earth. Suddenly around 34 million years ago records indicate the Earth cooled rapidly. By 33.4 million years ago the Oligocene extinction took place. Scientists theorize that the multiple impacts of asteroids and comets caused prolonged darkness, wildfires, and acid rain. These events led to the mass extinction and the rapid cooling.
The water was in the sediment long before the impact occurred and was trapped by folding and faulting that took place when North America broke away from Europe. The impact of the object only stirred the water but did not allow it to seep out. The water is very salty- twice as salty as modern seawater. The problem with this is that the aquifers for groundwater in the area are highly susceptible to contamination by this extremely salty groundwater just below. With such a large population to support, this is concerning.
The importance of this discovery of this water cannot be underestimated. The analysis of the ancient seawater will provide insight into the evolution of life. In addition, it will help scientists understand how salty ancient seawater was to gauge the threat of modern ocean acidification. Moreover, it is really cool.
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