The University of Arizona

Chicxulub: Testing for post-impact hydrothermal input into the Tertiary ocean



Studies of large terrestrial impact craters indicate that post-impact hydrothermal activity is a likely consequence of the crustal deformation and heating induced by such events. In the case of the Chicxulub basin, where marine conditions were re-established soon after the impact, significant fluxing of seawater through the crust and hydrothermal venting into the water column might be anticipated. We have carried out geochemical analyses of Tertiary carbonate sediments within the Yaxcopoil-1 (Yax-1) drill hole to test for evidence of such post-impact hydrothermal circulation. Hydrothermal activity is most likely to be found close to thick layers of melt rock inside the collapsed transient cavity, and it is estimated that Yax-1 is located ~20 km outside this cavity. Consequently, the most likely signature of hydrothermal venting into the water column would be geochemical anomalies attributable to fallout of suspended particulate matter from a submarine hydrothermal plume. Samples of Tertiary biomicrites from depths of 794.01 to 777.02 m have high concentrations of manganese, iron, phosphorous, titanium, and aluminium and low iron/manganese ratios relative to samples from higher in the stratigraphic succession. This geochemical anomaly decreases fairly systematically between 793.13 m and 777.02 m, above which an abrupt change in geochemistry is observed. A mass balance calculation suggests that the anomaly is unlikely to be the result of a decreasing detrital input to the carbonate sediments and the nature of the element enrichments is consistent with expectations for fallout from a distal hydrothermal plume. We conclude that a postimpact hydrothermal system did develop at Chicxulub, which led to the expulsion of hydrothermal fluids into the Tertiary water column. Preliminary biostratigraphic and magnetostratigraphic dating on Yax-1 core suggest that this hydrothermal activity lasted for at least 300 ka.


Venting;Sediment;Tertiary;Hydrothermal input;Geochemistry

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