Evidence in a recent study has revealed that a deadly comet may have crashed into Earth 13,000 years ago, raining fire down across the North American continent, wiping out whole species of prehistoric mammals and perhaps setting off a global change in climate.

The report, previewed Friday in the prestigious journal Science, bases its findings on microscopic diamonds recently unearthed in North American soil. According to UCSB professor of geology James Kennett — one of the nine geologists and archeologists from various universities around the country involved in the study — these “nanodiamonds” point to a catastrophic cosmic impact since they can only be produced under the intense pressures and temperatures of a colossal explosion.

“There’s no other way we can interpret the presence of these diamonds other than an extraterrestrial impact,” Kennett said.

The study postulates that the celestial inferno drastically reduced the population of the Paleo-Indian civilization inhabiting North America at the time and brought about an era of cold climate patterns that lasted for more than a thousand years. According to the study, the heat from the comet’s collision is thought to have melted the ice-covered Great Lakes region, sending a chilly wall of water into the Gulf of Mexico that affected the Atlantic currents and changed the Earth’s climate.

Douglas Kennett, the son of UCSB professor James Kennett and a researcher on the study, said in a press release that the manipulated climate patterns are assumed to have ushered in the 1,300-year cold stretch dubbed the Younger Dryas period. He said that the tiny diamonds the team discovered across North America conclusively point to a comet collision of sorts.

“The nanodiamonds that we found at all six locations exist only in sediments associated with the Younger Dryas Boundary layers, not above it or below it,” Douglas, an archaeologist from the University of Oregon, said. “These discoveries provide strong evidence for a cosmic impact event at approximately 12,900 years ago that would have had enormous environmental consequences for plants, animals and humans across North America.”

However, critics of the theory note that no crater has thus far been found to provide further tangible evidence of a comet impact.

In response, James Kennett said the pundits merely did not conduct their own research well enough. He said that a shower of comets — rather than a vast singular object — could have hit the earth, thus explaining the lack of a pronounced crater.

“The critics haven’t read our papers properly,” Kennett said. “We haven’t suggested that a single object entered our atmosphere and then had broken up. We feel that the earth was impacted by a fragmented comet; it was a comet cloud that consisted of multiple pieces.”

Kennett concluded that new developments and insights are forthcoming about the study results, and further research is still merited.

“The article in Science was only a page preview. It was submitted months ago and in the meantime our work has continued rapidly and we now know a lot more,” Kennett said. “We continue to test our hypothesis and that’s indeed what it is, a hypothesis.”