The University of Arizona

The effect of the oceans on the terrestrial crater size-frequency distribution: Insight from numerical modeling

T. DAVISON, G. S. COLLINS

Abstract


On Earth, oceanic impacts are twice as likely to occur as continental impacts, yet the effect of the oceans has not been previously considered when estimating the terrestrial crater size-frequency distribution. Despite recent progress in understanding the qualitative and quantitative effect of a water layer on the impact process through novel laboratory experiments, detailed numerical modeling, and interpretation of geological and geophysical data, no definitive relationship between impactor properties, water depth, and final crater diameter exists. In this paper, we determine the relationship between final (and transient) crater diameter and the ratio of water depth to impactor diameter using the results of numerical impact models. This relationship applies for normal incidence impacts of stoney asteroids into water-covered, crystalline oceanic crust at a velocity of 15 km s?1. We use these relationships to construct the first estimates of terrestrial crater size-frequency distributions (over the last 100 million years) that take into account the depth-area distribution of oceans on Earth. We find that the oceans reduce the number of craters smaller than 1 km in diameter by about two-thirds, the number of craters ~30 km in diameter by about one-third, and that for craters larger than ~100 km in diameter, the oceans have little effect. Above a diameter of ~12 km, more craters occur on the ocean floor than on land; below this diameter more craters form on land than in the oceans. We also estimate that there have been in the region of 150 impact events in the last 100 million years that formed an impact-related resurge feature, or disturbance on the seafloor, instead of a crater.

Keywords


impact modeling;terrestrial craters;Earth;impact cratering

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