The University of Arizona

Numerical modeling of impact-induced hydrothermal activity at the Chicxulub crater

Oleg Abramov, David A. Kring


Large impact events like the one that formed the Chicxulub crater deliver significant amounts of heat that subsequently drive hydrothermal activity. We report on numerical modeling of Chicxulub crater cooling with and without the presence of water. The model inputs are constrained by data from borehole samples and seismic, magnetic, and gravity surveys. Model results indicate that initial hydrothermal activity was concentrated beneath the annular trough as well as in the permeable breccias overlying the melt. As the system evolved, the melt gradually cooled and became permeable, shifting the bulk of the hydrothermal activity to the center of the crater. The temperatures and fluxes of fluid and vapor derived from the model are consistent with alteration patterns observed in the available borehole samples. The lifetime of the hydrothermal system ranges from 1.5 to 2.3 Myr depending on assumed permeability. The long lifetimes are due to conduction being the dominant mechanism of heat transport in most of the crater, and significant amounts of heat being delivered to the near-surface by hydrothermal upwellings. The long duration of the hydrothermal system at Chicxulub should have provided ample time for colonization by thermophiles and/or hyperthermophiles. Because habitable conditions should have persisted for longer time in the central regions of the crater than on the periphery, a search for prospective biomarkers is most likely to be fruitful in samples from that region.


Chicxulub;hydrothermal activity;impact crater;alteration; Post-impact;modeling

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