CHICXULUB IMPACT STRUCTURE

CHICXULUB IMPACT STRUCTURE

by: Charles O’Dale

  • Type: Peak Ring Basin a
  • Age Ma: 66.043 ±0.011 b
  • Diameter: 150 km c
  • Location: N 21°20’ W 89° 30’
  • FUTURISM POSTER

The initial hole punched in the Earth would have been about 30km deep and 80-100km across. Unstable, and under the pull of gravity, the sides of this depression would then have collapsed inwards.

At the same time, the centre of the bowl likely rebounded, briefly lifting rock higher than the Himalayas, before also falling down to cover the inward-rushing sides of the initial hole. And although this violent reconfiguration of the Earth’s crust took just minutes to complete, its consequences led to the fifth great mass extinction on our planet.

 “Time Scales of Critical Events Around the Cretaceous-Paleogene Boundary”.
Renne, Paul R.; (et al) Jan (7 February 2013).
Science 339 (6120)

Abstract
Mass extinctions manifest in Earth’s geologic record were turning points in biotic evolution. We present 40Ar/39Ar data that establish synchrony between the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary and associated mass extinctions with the Chicxulub bolide impact to within 32,000 years. Perturbation of the atmospheric carbon cycle at the boundary likely lasted less than 5000 years, exhibiting a recovery time scale two to three orders of magnitude shorter than that of the major ocean basins. Low-diversity mammalian fauna in the western Williston Basin persisted for as little as 20,000 years after the impact. The Chicxulub impact likely triggered a state shift of ecosystems already under near-critical stress.

This revised diameter is the best estimate for the collapsed transient crater diameter (rim-to-rim dimension). Our previous diameters cited maximum damage diameter estimates. There is considerable confusion in the literature regarding the definition of “diameter”. In the Earth Impact Database, we are striving to cite the collapsed transient crater value where possible. This can affect the order of size: for example, Sudbury’s maximum damage diameter is ~260 km (as defined by the outermost ring diameter), while that of Chicxulub is ~240 km. However, the rim-to-rim diameter of Sudbury is less than that of Chicxulub’s (130 versus 150 km, respectively).

2017-10 Update – Highlights of IODP-ICDP Expedition

In spring 2016, the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) and International Continental Scientific Drilling (ICDP) drilled into the Chicxulub crater off the coast of Mexico. The expedition targeted Chicxulub crater’s peak ring and overlying rock sequences. Peak rings, as seen on the moon, form when rocks rebound into a peak inside the crater. The peak then collapses, leaving a center ring of rock within the larger crater. The expedition is helping answer important questions about the Chicxulub impact event and peak-ring crater formation on planetary bodies.

The ~10 kilometer diameter bolide that struck the Yucatan Peninsula at 20+ kilometers per second instantaneously created a ~240 kilometers wide and 25 to 30 kilometers deep crater.
Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 87, NO. 2/APR, P. 77, 1993
Reflection seismic cross-section of Chicxulub along Chicx-A and -A1 (Bell et al. Forthcoming). The post-impact Tertiary sediments are clearly identifiable as high-frequency reflections from 0 to ~1 sec two-way travel time (TWTT). A topographic peak ring, with draped sediments, is identifiable on the floor of Chicxulub and separates the central basin from a surrounding annular trough. (GRIEVE et al 2003)
66 million years ago, a fourteen-kilometre diameter asteroid slammed into the Caribbean, and caused a global catastrophe that killed most life on Earth and exterminated the dinosaurs. The 200 km diameter crater from that massive impact is currently buried under 600 meters of sediment under the Caribbean Sea. Artist impression of the Chicxulub crater, showing the peak ring. credit: D. VAN RAVENSWAAY/SPL
The Chicxulub Impact Crater is illustrated here immediately over the horizon . I took this image during a cruise just to the east of the impact site. 65 million years ago if I was at this location, either the extreme heat shock wave of asteroid atmosphere contact/entry, or the impact explosion or the tsunami hundreds of metres high would have made a very bad day for me.
Chicxulub crater image of its gravitational field (NASA) .

The Chicxulub Crater has a prominent ring of cenotes circling the impact structure. The cenotes outline the crater rim even though the crater itself is buried under ~ 1km of sediment.

 

Chicxulub Crater breccia

The Cretaceous–Paleogene (K–Pg) boundary, formerly known as the Cretaceous–Tertiary (K–T) boundary, is a geological signature, usually a thin band of rock. K, the first letter of the German word Kreide (chalk), is the traditional abbreviation for the Cretaceous Period and Pg is the abbreviation for the Paleogene Period. This K-Pg geologic layer was found in Alberta.  – at the Royal Tyrrell Museum Drumheller Alberta.

Close-up of the Cretaceous–Paleogene (K–Pg) boundary, formerly known as the Cretaceous–Tertiary (K–T) boundary – at the Royal Tyrrell Museum Drumheller Alberta.
Spherules are abundant components of the K-T boundary that encircles the Earth. They are less than 0.5mm in diameter and consist mostly of Ni-bearing magnesioferrite spinel crystals. at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa.

The K-T Tektites

One of the most exciting and important scientific findings in decades was the 1980 discovery that a large asteroid, about 10 kilometers diameter, struck the earth at the end of the Cretaceous Period. The collision threw many tons of debris into the atmosphere and possibly led to the extinction of the dinosaurs and many other life forms. The fallout from this enormous impact, including shocked quartz and high concentrations of the element iridium, has been found in sedimentary rocks at more than 100 locations worldwide at the precise stratigraphic location of the Cretaceous-Tertiary (K-T) boundary (Alvarez and Asaro 1990; Alvarez 1998). We now know that the impact site is located on the Yucatan Peninsula. Measuring the age of this impact event independently of the stratigraphic evidence is an obvious test for radiometric methods, and a number of scientists in laboratories around the world set to work.

In addition to shocked quartz grains and high concentrations of iridium, the K-T impact produced tektites, which are small glass spherules that form from rock that is instantaneously melted by a large impact. The K-T tektites were ejected into the atmosphere and deposited some distance away. Tektites are easily recognizable and form in no other way, so the discovery of a sedimentary bed (the Beloc Formation) in Haiti that contained tektites and that, from fossil evidence, coincided with the K-T boundary provided an obvious candidate for dating. Scientists from the US Geological Survey were the first to obtain radiometric ages for the tektites and laboratories in Berkeley, Stanford, Canada, and France soon followed suit. The results from all of the laboratories were remarkably consistent with the measured ages ranging only from 64.4 to 65.1 Ma (Table 2). Similar tektites were also found in Mexico, and the Berkeley lab found that they were the same age as the Haiti tektites. But the story doesn’t end there.

The K-T boundary is recorded in numerous sedimentary beds around the world. The Z-coal, the Ferris coal, and the Nevis coal in Montana and Saskatchewan all occur immediately above the K-T boundary. Numerous thin beds of volcanic ash occur within these coals just centimeters above the K-T boundary, and some of these ash beds contain minerals that can be dated radiometrically. Ash beds from each of these coals have been dated by 40Ar/39Ar, K-Ar, Rb-Sr, and U-Pb methods in several laboratories in the US and Canada. Since both the ash beds and the tektites occur either at or very near the K-T boundary, as determined by diagnostic fossils, the tektites and the ash beds should be very nearly the same age, and they are (Table 2).

There are several important things to note about these results. First, the Cretaceous and Tertiary periods were defined by geologists in the early 1800s. The boundary between these periods (the K-T boundary) is marked by an abrupt change in fossils found in sedimentary rocks worldwide. Its exact location in the stratigraphic column at any locality has nothing to do with radiometric dating — it is located by careful study of the fossils and the rocks that contain them, and nothing more. Second, the radiometric age measurements, 187 of them, were made on 3 different minerals and on glass by 3 distinctly different dating methods (K-Ar and 40Ar/39Ar are technical variations that use the same parent-daughter decay scheme), each involving different elements with different half-lives. Furthermore, the dating was done in 6 different laboratories and the materials were collected from 5 different locations in the Western Hemisphere.

Luis (left) and Walter Alvarez at a limestone outcrop near Gubbio, Italy. Walter’s right hand is touching the top of the Cretaceous limestone, at the K-T boundary. Courtesy of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Scientists gear up to drill into ‘ground zero’ of the impact that killed the dinosaurs

08-05-2016: researchers brought up a 3-meter core section from a depth of 670 meters that contained bits of granite along with minerals originally deposited in hot, fluid-filled cracks—the first sign that the team had entered the peak ring.

Chicxulub ‘dinosaur’ crater drill project declared a success

25-05-2016:

    • An 18km-wide object dug a hole in Earth’s crust some 100km across and 30km deep
    • This bowl then collapsed, leaving a crater about 200km across and a few km deep
    • The crater’s central zone rebounded and collapsed again, producing an inner ring
    • Today, much of the crater is buried offshore in the Gulf, under 600m of sediments
    • On land, it is covered by limestone deposits, but its rim is traced by an arc of sinkholes

How Some Birds Survived When All Other Dinosaurs Died
Stephen L. Brusatteemail School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh
23-05-2016:

Summary The end-Cretaceous mass extinction wiped out the dinosaurs, including many birds. But some bird lineages survived. May seed-eating have been the key? While the meat-eating and insectivorous feathered Maniraptoran dinosaurs did not survive into the Tertiary, toothless, beaked birds may have coped with the devastation that wiped out 70% of all terrestrial vertebrates, by eating seeds.

Although the ~180 kilometer diameter Chicxulub impact crater is the best preserved peak-ring basin on Earth, it is buried beneath several hundred meters of sedimentary rock. To help understand the nature of that hidden structure, geologists will study similar structures on the Moon. The ~320 kilometer diameter Schrödinger basin on the lunar farside is an exceptionally well-exposed example of a peak-ring basin and probably closely mimics the appearance of Chicxulub before it was buried.

Peak-ring structure and kinematics from a multi-disciplinary study of the Schrödinger impact basin.

David A. Kring, Georgiana Y. Kramer, Gareth S. Collins, Ross W. K. Potter & Mitali Chandnani

On Earth, 66 million years ago, a similar impact formed the Chicxulub crater and wiped out the dinosaurs. However, the same rapid uplifting process that took an hour on the moon happened in just minutes on Earth, thanks to our planet’s higher gravity pulling the material back down once it had been tossed up by the asteroid impact.[26 August 2016]

Peak-ring formation in large impact craters: geophysical constraints from Chicxulub
J.V. Morgan, M.R. Warnera, G.S. Collinsa, H.J. Meloshb, G.L. Christesonc

Abstract A seismic reflection and three-dimensional wide-angle tomographic study of the buried, ~200-km duaneter, Chicxulub impact crater in Mexico reveals the kenematics of central structural uplift and peak-ring formation during large-crater collapse. The seismic data show downward and inward radial collapse of the transient cavity in the outer crater, and upward and outward collapse within the central structurally uplifted region. Peak rings are formed by the interference between these two flow regimes, and involve significant radial transport of material. Hydrocode modeling replicates the observed collapse features. Impact-generated melt rocks lie mostly inside the peak ring; the melt appears to be clast-rich and undifferentiated, with a maximum thickness of 3.5 km in the center.[15 December 2000]

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Brent Dalrymple, Radiometric Dating Does Work! Reports of the National Center for Science Education

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