Contribution of the Geological Survey of Canada 16491.
Terrestrial impact: The record in the rocks*
Version of Record online: 15 JUN 2012
1991 The Meteoritical Society
Volume 26, Issue 3, pages 175–194, September 1991
How to Cite
Grieve, R. A. F. (1991), Terrestrial impact: The record in the rocks. Meteoritics, 26: 175–194. doi: 10.1111/j.1945-5100.1991.tb01038.x
- Issue online: 15 JUN 2012
- Version of Record online: 15 JUN 2012
- Received 21 June 1991; accepted in revised form 2 July 1991
Abstract— Approximately 130 terrestrial craters are currently known. They range up to 140 km, and perhaps as much as 200 km, in diameter and from Recent to ∼2 billion years in age. The known sample, however, is highly biased to geologically young craters on the better known cratonic areas. The sample is also deficient in small (D < 20 km) craters compared to other planetary bodies. These biases are largely the result of active terrestrial geologic processes and their effects have to be considered when interpreting the record. The strength of the terrestrial cratering record lies in the availability of ground truth data, particularly on the structural and lithological nature of craters, which can be interpreted to understand and constrain large-scale impact processes. Some contributions include the definition of the concept of transient cavity formation and structural uplift during cratering events. Depths of excavation are poorly constrained, as very few terrestrial craters have preserved ejecta.
Unlike their planetary counterparts, terrestrial impact craters are mostly recognized not by morphology but by the occurrence of characteristic shock metamorphic effects. Their study has led to models of shock wave attenuation and an understanding of the character and formation of various impact-lithologies, including impact melt rocks. They, in turn, aid in interpreting the nature of extraterrestrial samples, particularly samples from the lunar highlands. The recognition of diagnostic shock metamorphic effects and the signature of projectile contamination through geochemical anomalies in impact lithologies provide the basis for recognizing the impact signature in K/T boundary samples. The record also provides a basis for testing hypotheses of periodic cometary showers. Although inherently not suitable to define short wavelength periods in time due to relatively large uncertainties associated with crater ages, the current record shows no evidence of periodicity. Future directions in terrestrial impact studies will likely continue to focus on the K/T and related problems, including the recognition of other impact signatures in the stratigraphic record. Some emphasis will likely be given to the economic potential of craters and individual large structures, such as Sudbury, will provide an increasingly better understood context for interpreting planetary impact craters. To live up to the full potential of the record to constrain impact processes, however, more basic characterization studies are required, in addition to emphasis on topical areas of study.