Terrestrial Ozone Depletion Due To A Milky Way Gamma-Ray Burst
Thomas, Brian C., Jackman, Charles H., Melott, Adrian L., Laird, Claude M., Stolarski, Richard S., Gehrels, Neil, Cannizzo, John K., and Hogan, Daniel P.
Based on cosmological rates, it is probable that at least once in the last Gy the Earth has been irradiated by a gamma-ray burst in our Galaxy from within 2 kpc. Using a two-dimensional atmospheric model we have performed the first computation of the effects upon the Earth's atmosphere of one such impulsive event. A ten second burst delivering 100 kJ/m(2) to the Earth penetrates to the stratosphere and results in globally averaged ozone depletion of 35%, with depletion reaching 55% at some latitudes. Significant global deplation persists for over 5 years after the burst. This depletion would have dramatic implications for life since a 50% decrease in ozone column density results in approximately three times the normal UVB flux. Widespread extinctions are likely, based on extrapolation from UVB sensitivity of modern organisms. Additional effects include a shot of nitrate fertilizer and NO2 opacity in the visible providing a cooling perturbation to the climate over a similar timescale. these results lend support to the hypothesis that a GRB may have initiated the late Ordovician mass extinction (Melott et al. 2004).