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The sequence of events subsequent to the impact of a large meteoroid in an ocean differs in several respects from an impact on land. Even if the meteoroid is large enough to produce a crater on the sea floor (that is, larger than a few km in diameter), the presence of water affects the character of the early-time events. The principal difference between land and oceanic impacts is the expansion of shock-vaporized water following an oceanic impact. A steam explosion follows the meteoroid’s deposition of energy in the target. Shocked water expands from an initial pressure of 3 to 6 Mbar for 20–30 km/second impacts, ejecting water vapor and dust from the vaporized meteoroid several hundred km into the atmosphere. The violent vapor plume thus formed may explain how dust with a dominantly meteoritic composition can be dispersed to form a world-wide dust layer, as required by the Alvarez hypothesis.

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