The Younger Dryas Impact Hypothesis (YDIH) is based on the claim that around 12,800 years ago the Earth had an encounter with a very large asteroid or comet that broke up in an airburst over North America and of which some fragments possibly hit the ground directly(a).
Many effects that have been linked with this event with varying levels of enthusiasm including a suggested association with the demise of Atlantis. Elsewhere, megafaunal extinctions, cataclysmic floods, the disappearance of the Clovis people and the creation of the Carolina Bays(g), have all been proposed as consequences of this episode.
In 2006, Richard Firestone, Allen West & Simon Warwick-Smith published the foundations of the YDIH in The Cycle of Cosmic Catastrophes . A year later the hypothesis had a more public airing at the American Geophysical Union Press Conference, Acapulco, Mexico, May 23(d). This was followed the same year by the publication of a formal paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America(f).
Since then volumes have been written on the subject, both pro and con(c).
A 2014 paper(h) entitled Nanodiamond-Rich Layer Across Three Continents Consistent with Major Cosmic Impact at 12,800 Cal BP by Charles R. Kinzie et al., has developed further the idea of this event being associated with the Younger Dryas. In a similar vein is an article(f) from Megan Gannon.
December 2014 saw Graham Hancock raising the issue of a cometary cause for the Younger Dryas and its possible association with ancient Egypt(e).
Richard Firestone together with his co-authors Allen West and Simon Warwick-Smith have written one of the most impressive accounts of a cosmic collision that led to the extinction in North America of large mammals such as the mammoth and sabre-toothed tiger and the concurrent disappearance of the Clovis people at the end of the last Ice Age. Their impact theory also offers a credible explanation for the Carolina Bays. However, they propose that this collision had catastrophic global consequences. The three scientists are prepared to consider the possibility that Plato’s Atlantis story, however garbled, is related to the same episode[0110.328]..
Since the publication of their book some evidence(a) has emerged that would appear to conflict with their core thesis. This criticism appears to be gaining support according to a May 2011 report(b)(d). However, in September 2012 it was reported that further intensive investigation has revealed flaws in the evidence gathering of Firestone’s critics(f). The interdisciplinary team of scientists from seven U.S. institutions concluded that “a disregard of three critical protocols, including sorting samples by size, explains why a group challenging the theory of a North American meteor-impact event some 12,900 years ago failed to find iron- and silica-rich magnetic particles in the sites they investigated.”
Strong resistance to the Firestone claims continued into 2013 when the Royal Holloway and the Sandia National Laboratories along with 13 other universities across the United States and Europe mounted further challenges(g).
The waters were muddied further when it was revealed that Allen West was formerly known as Allen Whitt, who was convicted in California of posing as a state-licensed geologist(b) and fined $4,500! He legally changed his name in 2006. His respected co-authors were apparently unaware of his history and as a consequence of West’s central role in the data gathering, the hypothesis is considered by some to be tainted. This may be a case of shooting the messenger instead of the message, a view discussed at length on the Internet(e).A spirited defence of both West in particular and the theory of the team in general has also been written(c) and should be read in order to get a more balanced view of this particular controversy.
The core debate has rumbled on ever since. In July 2015 the University of California, Santa Barbara, released the results(h) of research, led by James Kennett, which again supported the impact theory and “has narrowed the date to a 100-year range, sometime between 12,835 and 12,735 years ago.”
The battle has continued, apparently inconclusively, with more papers being published by all sides. July 2018 saw an update of the controversy published on the Science News website(i), with no sign of the war ending.
*Nevertheless, in late 2019, further evidence has emerged that appears supportive of Firestone’s theory. Where previously nanodiamonds were an important feature in the presentation of his ideas the latest studies focus on platinum as an important marker(j).*
Inspiration resulting from an interview with Firestone led Kevin Curran to a study that ended with the publication of Fall of a Thousand Suns, in which he investigates the effect of extraterrestrial encounters on the development of early religious beliefs.