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The Eltanin asteroid impact: possible South Pacific palaeomegatsunami footprint and potential implications for the Pliocene–Pleistocene transition

Authors

  • James Goff,

    Corresponding author
    1. Australia-Pacific Tsunami Research Centre, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW, Australia
    • Australia-Pacific Tsunami Research Centre, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW, Australia.
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  • Catherine Chagué-Goff,

    1. Australia-Pacific Tsunami Research Centre, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW, Australia
    2. Institute for Environmental Research, Australian Nuclear and Science Technology Organisation, Kirrawee, NSW, Australia
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  • Michael Archer,

    1. School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW, Australia
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  • Dale Dominey-Howes,

    1. Australia-Pacific Tsunami Research Centre, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW, Australia
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  • Chris Turney

    1. School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW, Australia
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Abstract

Large asteroid impacts are rare, and those into the deep ocean are rarer still. The Eltanin asteroid impact around 2.51 ± 0.07 Ma occurred at a time of great climatic and geological change associated with the Pliocene–Pleistocene boundary. Numerical models of the event indicate that a megatsunami was generated, although there is debate concerning its magnitude and the region-wide extent of its influence. We summarise the existing evidence for possible Eltanin megatsunami deposits in Antarctica, Chile and New Zealand, while also examining other potential sites from several locations, mainly around the South Pacific region. In reviewing these data we note that these events were unfolding at the same time as those associated with the Pliocene–Pleistocene boundary and, as such, most of the geological evidence from that time has a climatic interpretation. The potential climatic and geological ramifications of the Eltanin asteroid impact, however, have failed to be considered by most researchers studying this time period. Although we are not advocating that all geological activity at that time is connected with the Eltanin asteroid impact, it raises interesting questions about the role potentially played by such catastrophic events in contributing to or even triggering epochal transitions. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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