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Monitoring the fall of large atmospheric ice conglomerations: A multianalytical approach to the study of the Mejorada del Campo megacryometeor

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Certain local atmospheric anomalies, such as the formation of unusually large ice conglomerations (megacryometeors), have been proposed to be a potential natural hazard for people and aviation, as well as geoindicators for fingerprinting larger-scale atmospheric environmental changes. On March 13th 2007, at approximately 10:15 am, an ice chunk weighing about 10 kg fell from the clear-sky and crashed through the roof (around 15 m) of an industrial storage house in Mejorada del Campo, a town located 20 km east from Madrid. The megacryometeor monitoring follow-up and the original investigation presented here includes, for the first time, both logistic and scientific collaboration between the Laboratory of the Environment, Criminalistic Service (SECRIM, the Spanish "Guardia Civil") and academic and scientific institutions (universities and the Spanish National Research Council). We propose that the management procedure of the incident, along with the detailed scientific research and combination of analytical methodologies in different laboratories, can serve as a protocol model for other similar events.
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Monitoring the fall of large atmospheric ice conglomerations:
a multianalytical approach to the study of the Mejorada del Campo
megacryometeor
Francisco Alamilla Orellana,
a
Jose
´
M
a
Ramiro Alegre,
a
Jose
´
Carlos Cordero Pe
´
rez,
a
M
a
Paz Martı
´
n Redondo,
b
Antonio Delgado Huertas,
c
M
a
Teresa Ferna
´
ndez Sampedro,
b
Ce
´
sar Menor-Salva
´
n,
b
Marta Ruiz-Bermejo,
b
Fernando Lo
´
pez-Vera,
d
Jose
´
A. Rodrı
´
guez-Losada
e
and Jesus Martinez-Frias
*
b
Received 5th December 2007, Accepted 29th January 2008
First published as an Advance Article on the web 25th February 2008
DOI: 10.1039/b718785h
Certain local atmospheric anomalies, such as the formation of unusually large ice conglomerations
(megacryometeors), have been proposed to be a potential natural hazard for people and aviation, as
well as geoindicators for fingerprinting larger-scale atmospheric environmental changes. On March
13th 2007, at approximately 10:15 am, an ice chunk weighing about 10 kg fell from the clear-sky and
crashed through the roof (around 15 m) of an industrial storage house in Mejorada del Campo, a town
located 20 km east from Madrid. The megacryometeor monitoring follow-up and the original
investigation presented here includes, for the first time, both logistic and scientific collaboration
between the Laboratory of the Environment, Criminalistic Service (SECRIM, the Spanish ‘Guardia
Civil’’) and academic and scientific institutions (universities and the Spanish National Research
Council). We propose that the management procedure of the incident, along with the detailed scientific
research and combination of analytical methodologies in different laboratories, can serve as a protocol
model for other similar events.
Introduction
Environmental monitoring is the foundation for selecting
management approaches and safety procedures, for developing
predictive modelling and process research, and for integrating
the scientific information necessary to make key decisions.
1
In
accordance with current scientific priorities for the International
Global Atmospheric Chemistry (IGAC),
2
the new directions in
environmental strategies encourage the study of the atmosphere
in its entirety, taking into account the interactions and modifica-
tions occurring at different scales. Certain local atmospheric
anomalies, such as the formation of unusually large ice conglo-
merations (megacryometeors), have been proposed to be a poten-
tial natural hazard
3
for people and aviation, as well as
geoindicators
4
for fingerprinting larger-scale atmospheric
chemical and physical changes.
5–12
By the study of atmospheric
soundings from NOAA, and NCEP/NCAR reanalysis data of
the upper troposphere, the formation of megacryometeors has
been linked to undulations of the tropopause (mean upper
tropospheric temperature gradient for 19 ice fall events occurred
for the past five years combined was significantly greater than
climate normals), ozone anomalies and strong wind turbu-
lence.
6,9,11,12
This is of relevance from the environmental point
of view, given that observations suggest that: (1) the mixing ratio
of water vapour in the stratosphere has increased by 20–50%
from the 1960s to the mid-1990s
13
and (2) interchanges of water
vapour, favoured by tropopause disturbances, can play a central
role in atmospheric chemistry, influencing heterogeneous
chemical reactions, with subsequent implications in climate
change, as part of a global long-term trend. Cooler stratospheric
temperatures appear when there is more water vapor present,
and water vapor also leads to the breakdown of ozone mole-
cules.
14,15
The megacryometeor monitoring follow-up and the
original investigation presented here on the most recent ice fall
event, which occurred in Spain in 2007, includes for the first
time both logistic and scientific collaboration between the
Laboratory of the Environment, Criminalistic Service
(SECRIM, Spanish ‘Guardia Civil’’) and academic and scientific
institutions (universities and the Spanish National Research
Council). We propose that the management procedure of the
incident, along with the scientific research and combination
and comparison of analytical methodologies in different labora-
tories, can serve as a protocol model for other similar events.
Monitoring and research of megacryometeor incidents
Our monitoring and research study of the clear-sky ice fall events
was initiated in January 2000, in the context of a multidisci-
plinary scientific commission that was coordinated by the
Spanish National Research Council (CSIC). A specific website
was established, electronically hosted by the Thematic Network
a
Direccio
´
n General de la Guardia Civil, Servicio de Criminalı
´
stica,
Laboratorio de Medioambiente, C\Guzma
´
n el Bueno 110, Madrid, Spain
b
Centro de Astrobiologia, CSIC/INTA, Asociado al NASA Astrobiology
Institute, Ctra de Ajalvir, km. 4, Torrejo
´
n de Ardoz, Madrid, 28850,
Spain. E-mail: martinezfj@inta.es; Fax: +34-91-5201621
c
Departmento de Ciencias de la Tierra y Quı
´
mica Ambiental, Estacio
´
n
Experimental del Zaidı
´
n, CSIC, Prof. Albareda 1, Granada, 18008, Spain
d
Departamento de Geologı
´
a y Geoquı
´
mica, Facultad de Ciencias,
Universidad Auto
´
noma de Madrid, Madrid, 28049, Spain
e
Departamento de Edafologı
´
a y Geologı
´
a, Facultad de Biologı
´
a,
Universidad de La Laguna, La Laguna, Tenerife, C. Islands, 38206, Spain
570 | J. Environ. Monit., 2008, 10 , 570–574 This journal is ª The Royal Society of Chemistr y 2008
TECHNICAL NOTE www.rsc.org/jem | Journal of Environmental Monitoring
of Earth Sciences in Spain Tierra’, in which pictures, incident
information and scientific results were included.
16
After almost
eight years of monitoring and research, it has become evident
that megacryometeors are not classical big hailstones, ice from
aircrafts (waste water or tank leakage), nor the simple result of
icing processes at high altitudes. They display textures, hydro-
chemical features and oxygen and hydrogen isotopic values
which unequivocally confirm they are the result of complex
formation processes within the atmosphere. More specifically,
the megacryometeors’ water is consistent with the Craig’s Global
Meteoric Water Line
17
and their isotopic ranges (25& >
dD
SMOW
> 127&; 4.52& > d
18
O
SMOW
> 17.25&) are
clearly tropospheric.
11
At present, no model is able to satisfacto-
rily explain what factors cause the ice nucleation and growth,
18,19
or how megacryometeors can actually be formed and maintained
in the atmosphere. Nevertheless, any model should involve the
existence of an ice-supersaturated region (ISSR), that is, a super-
saturated but cloud free airmass,
20,21
connected with extreme
atmospheric turbulence, associated with the observed tropo-
pause undulation.
6,11
In this sense, theoretical calculations, based
on experimentally-obtained dD
SMOW
variations, indicate that
the vertical trajectory in effective growth of the megacryome-
teors was lower than 3.2 km.
11
It is important to note that
a detailed historical review of such ice fall events verifies that
there are many documented references of similar falls of large
blocks of ice which go back to the first half of the 19th century
(prior to the invention of aircrafts).
22–24
It is still too early to
ascertain whether there is a real multiplication effect of the
number of megacryometeor incident exclusively due to natural
causes (now there is a statistical artifact in the analysis as the
information circulates very fast and we can know rapidly what
is happening in different parts of the world). Nevertheless, and
mainly after 1950, the number of megacryometeor hits has
apparently increased. More than 100 events have been witnessed
and recorded, affecting practically the entire planet (Argentina,
Australia, Austria, Canada, Colombia, India, Italy, Japan,
Mexico, New Zealand, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden,
The Netherlands, United Kingdom and the USA).
3,11,12
From
2001 to 2006, a total of 52 ice-fall events have been witnessed
and recorded. Verifiable effects include the megacryometeors’
crashing (some of them weighing more than 100 kg) through roofs
or producing small impact craters (i.e., La Milana, Soria, Spain;
Surrey, UK; Oakland, California, USA).
25
As of this writing, 12
new documented ice falls have been recorded in 2007, eight in
the USA, two in The Netherlands, one in the UK and one in
Spain: the Mejorada del Campo megacryometeor.
Incident description
On March 13th 2007, at around 10:15 am, an ice chunk weighing
roughly 10 kg fell from clear-sky and crashed through the roof
(around 15 m) of an industrial storage house in Mejorada del
Campo, a town located 20 km east from Madrid.
26
The workers
were in the interior of the premises, and were witnesses of the
‘dry and very strong noise’ caused by the impact. Due to the
arrangement and elongated shape of the metallic material plates
of the roof, a pronounced dent and an irregular hole of around 2
m x 1 m, were produced. A significant part of the ice chunk
stayed deposited on the concavity of the dented part of the
roof (Fig. 1), whereas other ice fragments fell into the interior
of the industrial storage room. The plates of plaster underlying
the metallic material of the roof were also broken by the impact.
The ice was white and semi-transparent, displaying a nearly
equidimensional arrangement of the fragments (Fig. 1). Fortu-
nately, the incident caused only material damage and nobody
was hurt. Experts from the SECRIM, investigated the incident,
ruling out other hypotheses (e.g. vandalism). Some ice pieces
were collected and transported using portable freezers (the
same day of the event), to perform the first set of hydrochemical
analyses in the SECRIM’s Laboratory of Environment of the
‘Guardia Civil’’, and the rest of the ice was preserved under
frozen conditions for later studies. Subsequently, a second
sampling of the ice was carried out on April 13
th
2007. Various
megacryometeor fragments were moved, also under controlled
conditions, by two SECRIM members (one of them is the first
author of the present article), to the Planetary Geology Labora-
tory of the Centro de Astrobiologı
´
a (CAB).
Experimental
The ice samples (several pieces weighing a total of 842 g) were
kept in aseptic bags and immediately stored under refrigeration
at approximately 20
C, to avoid textural changes, as well as
to prevent possible contamination on the megacryometeor
surface by water-steam condensation, or by the absorption of
carbon dioxide from the environment. A previous stage of the
characterization analysis was to remove the external part of
the ice using an aseptic cutter. The set of analyses performed
(all of them from liquid aliquots of the ice samples) comprises
the combination of pH and conductivity, differential scanning
calorimetry (DSC), ion chromatography (IC), inductively
coupled plasma mass spectroscopy (ICP-MS), electrothermal
atomic absorption spectrometry (ETAAS) with a graphite
furnace, stable isotope mass spectrometry (SIMS), solid phase
micro-extraction-gas chromatography-mass spectrometry
(SPME-GC-MS), and microbiological analysis.
Fig. 1 Megacryometeor which fell on 13th March 2007, crashing
through the roof (around 15 m) of an industrial storage house in
Mejorada del Campo, Madrid. The picture shows the fragments of the
ice chunk, which stayed deposited in the concavity of the dented part
of the roof (see text for approximate weight and size).
This journal is ª The Royal Society of Chemistry 2008 J. Environ. Monit., 2008, 10, 570–574 | 571
The pH and conductivity determination was carried out using
a CRISON pH-meter (mod. Basic 20) and a MeterLab
PHM220 pH-meter, and a CDM210 conductivity-meter
(Radiometer, Copenhagen, Denmark), respectively (NIST
standard calibration). Independent measurement analyses were
performed in SECRIM and CAB laboratories. Thermal analysis
of selected ice samples was performed in a DSC 2920 of TA
Instruments. Temperature and heat flow were calibrated in the
common manner, using the onset temperatures of the melting
of indium (429.75 K) and an empty pan was used as reference.
The sample (20–25 mg) was put into a hermetically sealed
aluminium pinhole pan. The sample was cooled from ambient
down to 50
C, and reheated at 3
C min
1
up to 150
C.
For a comparison, this same procedure was also applied to
MilliQ water and tap water from the locality of Mejorada
del Campo. The anion content was determined using a Dionex
LC20 chromatograph equipped with a ED 40 electrochemical
detector, a GP50 gradient pump and a AS 40 autosampler,
a CD25 suppressed conductivity detector and an anion self-
regenerating suppressor ASRS ULTRA II, 4 mm (Autosuppre-
sion Recycle mode).
Quantitative multielemental analysis was performed by means
of an inductively coupled plasma source mass spectrometer
(ELAN9000 Q-ICP-MS) equipped with a Ryton cross-flow
nebulizer, a Scott spray chamber and a Cetac ASX-510 autosam-
pler. The sampler transport to the nebulizer was established by
a peristaltic pump. In order to obtain maximum precision, the
instrument was optimized daily, using a solution containing
10 ppb of Mg, Cu, Rh, Cd, In, Ba, Ce, Pb and U to obtain
maximum
103
Rh intensity, as well as an oxide and double charge
ion levels (lower than 3%). Regarding the reagents and standard
samples, multielement external standard working solutions were
prepared by accurate dilution of two commercial ICP-MS
standards, covering the whole mass range: Certipur ICP
multielement standard solution VI (Merk) and multielement
calibration solution 2 (PerkinElmer).
The acids employed in the sample treatment are suprapur
grade (Merk), and high purity water (18.2 mU) from a MilliQ
water system (Millipore) was used. Several aliquots were
sampled from the interior of the megacryometeor. Likewise,
additional tap water samples from Mejorada del Campo and
Madrid, and Madrid rainwater were analyzed for comparison
following the same analytical routine. The quality control of
the analysis process was studied monitoring the recovery of the
internal standard during the analysis and of all the elements in
the quality control standard. Determination of arsenic content
was specifically performed by a Perkin Elmer AAnalyst 600
atomic absorption spectrometer, equipped with a longitudinal
Zeeman-effect background corrector and an AS-800 autosam-
pler. The standard PerkinElmer THGA transversely heated
graphite furnace atomizer with integrated platform was used.
An electrode-less discharge lamp (EDL) was used for the
determination of As (l ¼ 193.7 nm). The isotopic study was
carried out at the Stable Isotope Laboratory of the Estacio
´
n
Experimental del Zaidı
´
n (Granada, Spain). Oxygen in water
was analysed by the CO
2
–H
2
O equilibration method.
27,28
To
determine hydrogen isotopic ratios we used reduction with Zn
at 450
C.
29,30
Isotopic ratios were measured by a Finnigan
MAT 251 mass spectrometer. The experimental error was
0.1& and 1& for oxygen and hydrogen, respectively, using
EEZ-3 and EEZ-4 as internal standards that were previously
calibrated vs. V-SMOW, SLAP and GIPS water. An organic
compounds analysis was performed by solid phase microextrac-
tion (SPME) coupled with GC-MS: c.a. 4 mL of the megacryo-
meteor sample was heated in a vial closed with a septum at 70
for 45 min. A 100 mm CAR-polydimethylsiloxane (CAR-
PDMS) fibre was then exposed to the headspace, keeping the
sample at the same temperature for a further 45 min. Analytes
on the fibre were then thermally desorbed in the injection port
of a Perkin Elmer Autosystem XL-Turbomass GC-MS instru-
ment at 290
for 4 min (split less mode). The analysis was
performed using a capillary column (5% diphenyl–95% dimethyl-
polysiloxane, 30 m 0.25 mm ID, 0.25 mm film) and using He as
carrier gas. The temperature was raised from 40
(4 min) to 150
at a rate of 15
min
1
, held for 2 min, 150
to 255
at 5
min
1
,
held for 15 min, and 255
to 300
at 10
min
1
, and held for
1 min. The mass spectrometer was operated under EI mode,
at an ionization energy of 70 eV, m/z range 30–600, transfer
line at 300
. In addition to all these techniques, a microbiological
analysis of the external part of the ice samples was also
carried out.
Results and discussion
The megacryometeor water has a pH in the range of from 7.05 to
7.86 (0.10), and conductivity values from 56.4 to 69.2 (7) mS
cm
1
. Thermal analysis of the ice indicates melting values
ranging from 0.09
C to 3.12
C (316.4 J g
1
) and boiling values
from 99.34
C–104.32
C (1959 J g
1
) (Fig. 2). Likewise, main
ranges (mg l
1
) of F, BrO
3
, Cl, NO
2
,NO
3
,PO
4
and SO
4
are
the following: F: 0.52–0.68; BrO
3
: <LQ 0.13; Cl: 6.41–8.37;
NO
2
: <LQ; PO
4
: 0.70–0.83 and SO
4
: 3.38–3.73. Table 1 displays
a summary of the main hydrochemical results of the ice obtained
by ICP-MS. Arsenic content was below detection limit (1.08 ppb)
in all cases. Isotopically, the distribution of the samples (35 points
of isotopic analyses covering different parts of the ice fragments;
9.76& > d
18
O
SMOW
> 10.70& and 49& > dD
SMOW
>
56&) in the Craig’s line verify that they match the Meteoric
Water Line,
17
providing evidence of a direct condensation of
the ice from atmospheric (unequivocally tropospheric) water
Fig. 2 DSC of the ice, showing the ranges of melting and boiling values.
572 | J. Environ. Monit., 2008, 10 , 570–574 This journal is ª The Royal Society of Chemistr y 2008
vapour. Regarding the analysis by GC-MS, it is important to
note that no organic compounds were detected in the ice
samples, which were specifically extracted from the interior of
the megacryometeor fragments. Finally, in order to determine
the biological contamination of the ice, three aliquots of
ice-melt water were sampled from the surface of the megacryo-
meteor and plated onto solid media with nutrient agar (Panreac
Cultimed) for selective growth culture. Subsamples were
removed for PCR amplification of 16S rDNA. The subsequent
cloning and sequencing of the samples, using a 3130 Genetic
Analyzer and the Microseq software (Applied Byosistem),
revealed the following species: Brevundimonas intermedia,
Kocuria rosea, Achromobacter sp., Sphingomonas sp., Pantotea
sp. and Acinetobacter sp.
Basically, the circumstances surrounding the Mejorada del
Campo incident and the hydrochemical and isotopic features
determined in the ice samples are in a good agreement with
previous results
6,10,11
concerning other megacryometeors. It is
well known that precautionary principles require that environ-
mental managers should be prudent when making decisions,
where there is still an incipient understanding about the under-
lying scientific issues. As previously defined, although several
hypotheses have been advanced, no geophysical model is able
to adequately give explanation of what factors cause the ice
nucleation and growth, or how megacryometeors can be actually
formed and maintained in the atmosphere.
6,9–11
However, it is
a fact that tropospheric ice chunks, weighing tens of kilograms,
do fall provoking verifiable hazards without a clear knowledge
about the environmental implication of the whole process that
rules their formation in the atmosphere (more or less anthropo-
genically related). This article offers new data about the
Mejorada del Campo megacryometeor and documents the value
of having both civil and scientific institutions involved in
conducting follow-up investigation of such atmospheric ice falls.
Institutions should be ready and alert to the need for proper
environmental and logistic responses to these incidents.
Acknowledgements
The authors acknowledge the collaboration of the workers and
director of Iberostil S.L., and the institutional support provided
by the Criminalistic Service of the Guardia Civil and CSIC. Also,
thanks to Dr David Hochberg for the revision and correction of
the English version. Two anonymous referees are acknowledged
for their helpful comments that improved the original
manuscript.
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del Campo tap water. M-rw: Madrid rainwater. M-tw: Madrid tap water.
BDL: below detection limit. ND: non detected, LOD: limit of detection.
The operating parameter setting is the following: RF power (W): 1000.
Nebulizer gas flow: 0.89 l min
1
. Lens voltage: 7.25 volts. Analog Stage
voltage: 1900 volts. Pulse stage voltage: 1100 volts. Sweep/reading: 6.
Reading/replicate: 1. Replicate: 1
ppb MJC-m MJC-tw M-rw M-tw LOD
Ca 5333.6 9430.1 7437.8 7655.5 3.79
Na 7900.3 5931.1 1342 4494.9 1.25
Mg 655.1 1705 376.8 1308.3 0.81
Al 130.3 76.5 80.1 388.7 0.51
Si 253.3 2089.3 280.1 1766.7 1.29
P 239.7 ND 110.5 5.1 2.86
K 1853.6 792.9 603.1 610.5 6.49
Sc BDL 1 BDL 0.9 0.17
V BDL BDL 1.9 BDL 1.02
Cr 2 1.7 ND 1.2 0.32
Mn 10 1.7 12.3 9.6 0.23
Fe 74.8 30.3 39.1 268.4 2.73
Co BDL BDL 0.7 BDL 0.4
Ni 2.239 BDL 1.6 1.6 0.9
Cu 36.5 3.6 11.7 491.1 1.29
Zn 180.2 4.6 88.2 136.7 0.84
Ge ND ND ND ND 0.75
As BDL BDL BDL BDL 1.08
Rb BDL BDL BDL BDL 3.22
Sr 26 44.7 23.3 31.1 2.37
Y 0.1 BDL 0.1 0.1 0.1
Zr ND ND BDL ND 0.25
Cd 2.1 BDL BDL ND 0.85
Ba 12.2 6.9 11.1 6.8 2.42
La BDL BDL BDL BDL 1.74
Ce BDL BDL BDL BDL 1.38
Pr BDL BDL BDL BDL 1.63
Nd BDL BDL BDL BDL 0.25
Sm BDL BDL BDL BDL 0.37
Pb 4 BDL 5.5 0.5 0.25
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574 | J. Environ. Monit., 2008, 10 , 570–574 This journal is ª The Royal Society of Chemistr y 2008
... It is highly like that ejected water, rock and soil may become comets or orbit the solar system as frozen rivers, lakes and ice-meteors (Beech, 2006;Martinez-Frias et al. 2006;Orellana et al.2008;Snyder & Joseph, 2015). Some of this ejected mass and frozen water would eventually fall back to the planet from which they were ejected (Beech, 2006;Martinez-Frias et al. 2006;Orellana et al. 2008). Others might intersect the orbits of other worlds. ...
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Life-bearing meteors, asteroids, comets and frozen bodies of water which had been ejected from Mars or other planets via bolide impact may have caused the Cambrian Explosion of life on Earth 540 million years ago. Reviewed in support of this theory are historical and worldwide reports of blood, gore, flesh and a variety of organisms raining from clear skies on warm days along with freezing rains and ice and sometimes embedded in ice and which a 2008 report in the International Journal of Astrobiology linked to comets and celestial events. Numerous reports have documented, within meteors, fossilized organisms resembling fungi, algae, and diatoms. In 1880 specimens resembling fossilized crinoids, corals and sponges were identified within an assemblage of meteorites that had fallen to Earth and investigators speculated that evolution may have occurred in a similar fashion on other planets. Russian scientists have reported that mosquito larvae, the majority of seeds from a variety of plants, and fish eggs and embryos from crustaceans develop and reproduce normally after 7 to 13 months exposure to space outside the ISS and could travel to and from Earth and Mars and survive. Investigators have identified specimens on Mars that resemble stromatolites, bacterial mats, algae, fungi, and lichens, and fossils resembling tube worms, Ediacarans, Metazoans and other organisms including those with eyes and multiple legs. McKay speculated that evolution may have taken place more rapidly on Mars and experienced a "Cambrian Explosion" in advance of Earth. Eight hundred million years ago an armada of asteroids, comets and meteors more numerous and several times more powerful than the Chicxulub impact, invaded the inner solar system and struck the Earth-Moon system. It is highly probable Mars was also struck and massive amounts of life-bearing debris was cast into space. Genetic studies indicate the first metazoans appeared on Earth 750 to 800 million years ago soon after this impacting event. Given the relatively sudden "explosive" appearance of complex life with bones, brains, and modern eyes, as well as those that were bizarre and quickly became extinct, and given there are no antecedent intermediate forms and that previous life forms consisted of only 11 cell types prior to the Cambrian Explosion, the evidence, in total, supports the theory that life on other planets and Mars may have been transported to Earth 800 million years ago and contributed to the Cambrian Explosion.
... Previous contributions on the knowledge of megacryometeors have been focused on the study of their textures (zones of 'massive ice', large isolated cavities, millimetre-sized oriented air bubbles and ice layering) and their hydrochemistry and isotopic composition, all of them evidencing a complex history of growth into the atmosphere (Martinez-Frias et al. 2000, 2001, 2005; Santoyo et al. 2002; Martinez-Frias & Delgado 2006; Orellana et al. 2008). To the best of our knowledge, no spectroscopic studies have been performed in these megacryometeors. ...
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For the first time, micro-Raman spectroscopy has been applied to the structural study of four megacryometeors (extremely large atmospheric ice conglomerations that fall in general under blue-sky atmospheric conditions) that fell in Spain. The Raman spectra taken on the megacryometeor cores have been compared with those obtained from an in situ and online study performed on the crystallization process of water in the laboratory. A detailed comparison of the band profiles obtained made it possible to place the formation of the megacryometeors within a particular range of temperatures (-10 to -20 degrees C), which in turn can be related with the altitude of formation in the atmosphere. These results have also been compared with isotope concentrations (delta(18)O and deltaD) previously obtained in these cores. The two sets of results show a close correlation.
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Ice meteors have been reported falling form the skies since the 19th century. The consensus of opinion is they are not meteors at all, but formed under unusual atmospheric conditions effecting the troposphere. Some scientists believe, however, that ice meteors, i.e. Megacryometeors, have an extraterrestrial origin. A review of the literature and arguments pro and con regarding the possible origins of megacryometeors is presented, as well as new data on a ice meteor subjected to electron microscopic, isotope ratio and tritium analysis. The results favor an extraterrestrial origin. Although admittedly speculative, based on this data and a review of the literature, the authors theorize this particular megacryometeor may have originated from Saturn's E ring, or from the surface of Saturn's moon Enceladus.
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Specific studies about the stable isotope composition (18O/16O and D/H) of atmospheric icy conglomerations are still scarce. The present work offers, for the first time, a very detailed analysis of oxygen and hydrogen isotopic signatures of unusually large ice conglomerations, or “megacryometeors”, that fell to the ground in Spain during January 2000. The hydrochemical analysis is based on the bulk isotopic composition and systematic selective sampling (deuterium isotopic mapping) of eleven selected specimens. δ18O and δD (V-SMOW) of all samples fall into the Meteoric Water Line matching well with typical tropospheric values. The distribution of the samples on Craig's line suggests either a variation in condensation temperature and/or different residual fractions of water vapour (Rayleigh processes). Three of the largest megacryometeors exhibited unequivocally distinctive negative values (δ18O = −17.2%0 and δD = −127 %0 V-SMOW), (δ18O = −15.6%0 and δD = −112%0 V-SMOW) and (δ18O = −14.4%0 and δD = −100%0 V-SMOW), suggesting an atmospheric origin typical of the upper troposphere. Theoretical calculations indicate that the vertical trajectory of growth was lower than 3.2 km. During the period in which the fall of megacryometeors occurred, anomalous atmospheric conditions were observed to exist: a substantial lowering of the tropopause with a deep layer of saturated air below, ozone depression and strong wind shear. Moreover, these large ice conglomerations occurred during non-thunderstorm conditions, suggesting an alternative process of ice growth was responsible for their formation.
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