MANSON IMPACT CRATER

MANSON IMPACT CRATER

by: Charles O’Dale

  • Type: Central peak
  • Age: 74.1 Ma a
  • Diameter: ~35Km
  • Location: N 42°35’ W 94° 33’

a Dating Method:40Ar/39Ar method at 74.1 Ma (million years; Izett et al 1998)

Manson impact location shown in red on bedrock map of Iowa.

In 1991 and 1992, the Iowa Geological Survey Bureau and U.S. Geological Survey began to investigate the possibility that the Manson impact was a Cretaceous-Tertiary (KT) boundary event. During the course of this investigation 12 research cores, totaling over 1.2 km of core, were obtained from all terranes of the crater. Study of those cores and other data by scientists throughout the United States and from several other countries produced an understanding of the processes involved in the formation of the Manson Structure. This investigation identified the Manson Structure as a “complex” impact crater; that is, it includes an outermost “terrace” of down-dropped blocks, an inner “central peak,” and a “crater moat” in between. Important information not only on the age (not K-T boundary age), but also on cratering mechanics and on the deposition of different types, was gained from the drill ing. Distal ejecta from Manson have been found in Nebraska and South Dakota.

On a “bumpy” day on my way to the Grand Canyon in 2008, I diverted a bit to overfly the Manson Impact Crater – The town of Manson is center background in the image. The point of impact is circled on the left of the image. I am looking south-east.

Introduction

The bolide creating the Manson Crater landed in a shallow seaway. The seaway retreated from the region of the Manson Structure within a few million years exposing the area to erosion. During the last 2.5 million years, continental glaciers covered the Manson area repeatedly. These glaciers further eroded the impact feature before blanketing it with tens of Metres of glacial sediments. (Source: Iowa Geological & Water Survey – Adapted from Iowa Geology 1999, Iowa Department of Natural Resources)Image via the Iowa Geological and Water Survey

In the Cretaceous Period, a large meteorite struck the earth at a location near the present town of Manson, Iowa. The heat of the impact melted some of the feldspar crystals in the granitic rocks of the impact zone, thereby resetting their internal radiometric clocks. These melted crystals, and therefore the impact, have been dated by the 40Ar/39Ar method at 74.1 Ma (million years; Izett et al 1998).

No surface evidence exists due to comparatively recent coverage by glacial till. The crater is buried 20 to 90 m below the surface. The area was known from unusual water well drill cuttings in 1912 of deformed rock, “crystalline clast breccia with a melt matrix” as a later report described it. A research investigation was started in 1955, and it was labeled a “cryptovolcanic structure” (a hypothetical volcanic steam explosion). Further investigation was undertaken that proposed an impact origin in 1959 and by in 1966 when evidence of shocked quartz grains which confirmed the impact origin of the structure was produced.

Shock-characteristic planar deformation features (PDFs) in a quartz grain (in distal ejecta from the Manson impact crater, found in South Dakota). Width of the grain ca. 100 mm. Multiple intersecting sets of PDFs are clearly visible (Christian Koeberl).

The impact also created shocked quartz crystals that were blasted into the air and subsequently fell to the west into the inland sea that occupied much of central North America at that time. Today this shocked quartz is found in South Dakota, Colorado, and Nebraska in a thin layer (the Crow Creek Member) within a thick rock formation known as the Pierre Shale. The Pierre Shale, which is divided into identifiable sedimentary beds called members, also contains abundant fossils of numerous species of ammonites, ancestors of the chambered nautilus. The fossils, when combined with geologic mapping, allow the various exposed sections of the Pierre Shale to be pieced together in their proper relative positions to form a complete composite section (Figure 1). The Pierre Shale also contains volcanic ash that was erupted from volcanoes and then fell into the sea, where it was preserved as thin beds. These ash beds, called bentonites, contain sanidine feldspar and biotite that has been dated using the 40Ar/39Ar technique.

Evidence from the Crow Creek Member (Pierre Shale) for an impact-induced resuspension event in the late Cretaceous Western Interior Seaway Ryan D. Weber and David K. Watkins

Abstract

The 1–3-m-thick Crow Creek Member is a unique marlstone with rip-up clasts and a basal coarse layer in the Upper Cretaceous Pierre Shale in South Dakota and Nebraska. Although the Member has been thought to represent a marine transgression along the eastern margin of the Western Interior Seaway, the presence of impact ejecta from the Manson Impact Structure suggests an impact-induced genesis.

An upper Campanian in situ nannofossil assemblage with a lower Campanian reworked assemblage (from older Niobrara Chalk) occurs in the Crow Creek at most localities. The reworked assemblage decreases in abundance upward through the marlstone, a pattern consistent with an origin involving gravitational settling rather than marine transgression. Gray marlstone clasts in the basal coarse layer have nannofossils derived from the underlying Gregory Member and Niobrara Chalk. The reworked assemblage decreases in abundance with increased distances from the Manson Impact Structure and the Sioux Ridge (a paleotopographic high). The nonuniform geographic distribution of reworking suggests that Crow Creek deposition was linked to the Manson Impact. These observations, and a fining upward trend, the presence of impact ejecta, and coeval deposition with the Manson Impact Structure, support a resuspension-event origin for the Crow Creek Member.

Radiometric Dating of the Manson Impact Structure

In the Cretaceous Period, a large meteorite struck the earth at a location near the present town of Manson, Iowa. The heat of the impact melted some of the feldspar crystals in the granitic rocks of the impact zone, thereby resetting their internal radiometric clocks. These melted crystals, and therefore the impact, have been dated by the 40Ar/39Ar method at 74.1 Ma (million years; Izett and others 1998), but that is not the whole story by a long shot. The impact also created shocked quartz crystals that were blasted into the air and subsequently fell to the west into the inland sea that occupied much of central North America at that time. Today this shocked quartz is found in South Dakota, Colorado, and Nebraska in a thin layer (the Crow Creek Member) within a thick rock formation known as the Pierre Shale. The Pierre Shale, which is divided into identifiable sedimentary beds called members, also contains abundant fossils of numerous species of ammonites, ancestors of the chambered nautilus. The fossils, when combined with geologic mapping, allow the various exposed sections of the Pierre Shale to be pieced together in their proper relative positions to form a complete composite section (Figure 1). The Pierre Shale also contains volcanic ash that was erupted from volcanoes and then fell into the sea, where it was preserved as thin beds. These ash beds, called bentonites, contain sanidine feldspar and biotite that has been dated using the 40Ar/39Ar technique.

The results of the Manson Impact/Pierre Shale dating study (Izett and others 1998) are shown in Figure 1. There are three important things to note about these results. First, each age is based on numerous measurements; laboratory errors, had there been any, would be readily apparent. Second, ages were measured on two very different minerals, sanidine and biotite, from several of the ash beds. The largest difference between these mineral pairs, in the ash from the Gregory Member, is less than 1%. Third, the radiometric ages agree, within analytical error, with the relative positions of the dated ash beds as determined by the geologic mapping and the fossil assemblages; that is, the ages get older from top to bottom as they should. Finally, the inferred age of the shocked quartz, as determined from the age of the melted feldspar in the Manson impact structure (74.1 ± 0.1 Ma), is in very good agreement with the ages of the ash beds above and below it.

References

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

Crossey, L. J.,Mccarville, P. Post-impact alteration of the Manson impact structure Lunar and Planetary Inst., Twenty-fourth Lunar and Planetary Science Conference. Part 1: A-F; p 351-352

Samuels, S.H., Manson Ground Exploration

Short, N. M., Gold, D. P., Petrography of shocked rocks from the central peak at the Manson impact structure. Geological Society of America Special Paper 302, pp. 245-265. 1996.

University of New Brunswick