Computer simulations have been completed that describe passage of a 10-km-diameter asteroid through the Earth's atmosphere and the subsequent cratering and ejecta dynamics caused by impact of the asteroid into both oceanic and continental sites. The asteroid was modeled as a spherical body moving vertically at 20 km/s with a kinetic energy of 2.6 ?? 1030 ergs (6.2 ?? 107 Mt ). Detailed material modeling of the asteroid, ocean, crustal units, sedimentary unit, and mantle included effects of strength and fracturing, generic asteroid and rock properties, porosity, saturation, lithostatic stresses, and geothermal contributions, each selected to simulate impact and geologic conditions that were as realistic as possible. Calculation of the passage of the asteroid through a U.S. Standard Atmosphere showed development of a strong bow shock wave followed by a highly shock compressed and heated air mass. Rapid expansion of this shocked air created a large low-density region that also expanded away from the impact area. Shock temperatures in air reached ???20,000 K near the surface of the uplifting crater rim and were as high as ???2000 K at more than 30 km range and 10 km altitude. Calculations to 30 s showed that the shock fronts in the air and in most of the expanding shocked air mass preceded the formation of the crater, ejecta, and rim uplift and did not interact with them. As cratering developed, uplifted rim and target material were ejected into the very low density, shock-heated air immediately above the forming crater, and complex interactions could be expected. Calculations of the impact events showed equally dramatic effects on the oceanic and continental targets through an interval of 120 s. Despite geologic differences in the targets, both cratering events developed comparable dynamic flow fields and by ???29 s had formed similar-sized transient craters ???39 km deep and ???62 km across. Transient-rim uplift of ocean and crust reached a maximum altitude of nearly 40 km at ???30 s and began to decay at velocities of 500 m/s to develop large-tsunami conditions. After ???30 s, strong gravitational rebound drove both craters toward broad flat-floored shapes. At 120 s, transient crater diameters were ???80 km (continental) and ???105 km (oceanic) and transient depths were ???27 km; crater floors consisting of melted and fragmented hot rock were rebounding rapidly upward. By 60 s, the continental crater had ejected ???2 ?? 1014 t, about twice the mass ejected from the oceanic crater. By 120 s, ???70,000 km3 (continental) and ???90,000 km3 (oceanic) target material were excavated (no mantle) and massive ejecta blankets were formed around the craters. We estimate that in excess of ???70% of the ejecta would finally lie within ???3 crater diameters of the impact, and the remaining ejecta (???1013 t), including the vaporized asteroid, would be ejected into the atmosphere to altitudes as high as the ionosphere. Effects of secondary volcanism and return of the ocean over hot oceanic crater floor could also be expected to contribute substantial material to the atmosphere. ?? 1987.
Additional publication details
Computer simulations of large asteroid impacts into oceanic and continental sites--preliminary results on atmospheric, cratering and ejecta dynamics