Groundwater more saline than seawater has been discovered in the tsunami breccia of the Chesapeake Bay impact Crater. One hypothesis for the origin of this brine is that it may be a liquid residual following steam separation in a hydrothermal system that evolved following the impact. Initial scoping calculations have demonstrated that it is feasible such a residual brine could have remained in the crater for the 35 million years since impact. Numerical simulations have been conducted using the code HYDROTHERM to test whether or not conditions were suitable in the millennia following the impact for the development of a steam phase in the hydrothermal system. Hydraulic and thermal parameters were estimated for the bedrock underlying the crater and the tsunami breccia that fills the crater. Simulations at three different breccia permeabilities suggest that the type of hydrothermal system that might have developed would have been very sensitive to the permeability. A relatively low breccia permeability (1 ?? 10-16 m2) results in a system partitioned into a shallow water phase and a deeper superheated steam phase. A moderate breccia permeability (1 ?? 10-15 m2 ) results in a system with regionally extensive multiphase conditions. A relatively high breccia permeability (1 ?? 10-14 m2 ) results in a system dominated by warm-water convection cells. The permeability of the crater breccia could have had any of these values at given depths and times during the hydrothermal system evolution as the sediments compacted. The simulations were not able to take into account transient permeability conditions, or equations of state that account for the salt content of seawater. Results suggest, however, that it is likely that steam conditions existed at some time in the system following impact, providing additional evidence that is consistent with a hydrothermal origin for the crater brine. ?? Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
Additional publication details
A simulation of the hydrothermal response to the Chesapeake Bay bolide impact