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Chesapeake Bay impact structure—Development of "brim" sedimentation in a multilayered marine target

November 29, 2018

The late Eocene Chesapeake Bay impact structure was formed in a multilayered target of seawater underlain sequentially by a sediment layer and a rock layer in a continental-shelf environment. Impact effects in the “brim” (annular trough) surrounding and adjacent to the transient crater, between the transient crater rim and the outer margin, primarily were limited to the target-sediment layer. Analysis of published and new lithostratigraphic, biostratigraphic, sedimentologic, petrologic, and mineralogic studies of three core holes, and published studies of a fourth core hole, provided information for the interpretation of the impact processes, their interactions and relative timing, their resulting products, and sedimentation in the brim. Most studies of marine impact-crater materials have focused on those found in the central crater. There are relatively few large, complex marine craters, of which most display a wide brim around the central crater. However, most have been studied using minimal data sets. The large number of core holes and seismic profiles available for study of the Chesapeake Bay impact structure presents a special opportunity for research. The physical and chronologic records supplied by study of the sediment and rock cores of the Chesapeake Bay impact indicate that the effects of the initial, short-lived contact and compression and excavation stages of the impact event primarily were limited to the transient crater. Only secondary effects of these processes are evident in the brim. The preserved record of the brim was created primarily in the subsequent modification stage. In the brim, the records of early impact processes (e.g., outgoing tsunamis, overturned flap collapse) were modified or removed by later processes. Transported and rotated, large and small clasts of target sediments, and intervals of fluidized sands indicate that seismic shaking fractured and partially fluidized the Cretaceous and Paleogene target sediments, which led to their inward transport by collapse and lateral spreading toward the transient crater. The succeeding inward seawater-resurge flow quickly overtook and interacted with the lateral spreading, further facilitating sediment transport across the brim and into the transient crater. Variations in the cohesion and relative depth of the target sediments controlled their degree of disaggregation and redistribution during these events. Melt clasts and shocked and unshocked rock clasts in the resurge sediments indicate fallout from the ejecta curtain and plume. Basal parautochthonous remnant sections of target Cretaceous sediments in the brim thin toward the collapsed transient crater. Overlying seawater-resurge deposits consist primarily of diamictons that vary laterally in thickness, and vertically and laterally in maximum grain size. After cessation of resurge flow and re-establishment of pre-impact sea level, sandy sediment gravity flows moved from the margin to the center of the partially filled impact structure (shelf basin). The uppermost unit consists of stratified sediments deposited from suspension. Postimpact clayey silts cap the crater fill and record the return to shelf sedimentation at atypically large paleodepths within the shelf basin. An unresolved question involves a section of gravel and sand that overlies Neoproterozoic granite in the inner part of the brim in one core hole. This section may represent previously unrecognized, now parautochthonous Cretaceous sediments lying nonconformably above basement granite, or it may represent target sediments that were moved significant distances by lateral spreading above basement rocks or above a granite megaclast from the overturned flap. The Chesapeake Bay impact structure is perhaps the best documented example of the small group of multilayer, marine-target impacts formed in continental shelves or beneath epeiric seas. 

Publication Year 2019
Title Chesapeake Bay impact structure—Development of "brim" sedimentation in a multilayered marine target
DOI 10.1130/2018.2537
Authors Henning Dypvik, Gregory Gohn, Lucy Edwards, J. Wright Horton,, David Powars, Ronald Litwin
Publication Type Book Chapter
Publication Subtype Book Chapter
Index ID 70206001
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Eastern Geology and Paleoclimate Science Center