An (U-Th)/He age for the shallow-marine Wetumpka impact structure, Alabama, USA


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Abstract– Single crystal (U-Th)/He dating was applied to 24 apatite and 23 zircon grains from the Wetumpka impact structure, Alabama, USA. This small approximately 5–7.6 km impact crater was formed in a shallow marine environment, with no known preserved impact melt, thus offering a challenge to common geochronological techniques. A mean (U-Th)/He apatite and zircon age of 84.4 ± 1.4 Ma (2σ) was obtained, which is within error of the previously estimated Late Cretaceous impact age of approximately 83.5 Ma. In addition, helium diffusion modeling of apatite and zircon grains during fireball/contact, shock metamorphism, and hydrothermal events was undertaken, to show the influence of these individual thermal processes on resetting (U-Th)/He ages in the Wetumpka samples. This study has shown that the (U-Th)/He geochronological technique has real potential for dating impact structures, especially smaller and eroded impact structures that lack impact melt lithologies.