The list of impact craters documented on Earth is short. Only about 165 genuine impact structures have been identified to date (Table 1.1). Even so, the number is steadily increasing at the rate of ∼3–5 per year (Grieve et al. 1995; Earth Impact Database at http://www.unb.ca/passc/Impact/Database/). In stark contrast, most other rocky planets and satellites of our solar system are pockmarked by thousands to hundreds of thousands of impact features (Beatty et al. 1999). Nevertheless, impact specialists acknowledge that Earth, too, has undergone billions of years of bolide bombardment (Melosh 1989; Schoenberg et al. 2002). The most intense bombardment, however, took place during Earth’s earliest history (∼3.8–4 Ga; Ryder 1990; Cohen et al. 2000; Ryder et al. 2000). Traces of most terrestrial impacts have been completely erased or strongly altered by the dynamic processes of a thick atmosphere, deep ocean, and mobile crust, a combination unique to our planet. Planetary geologists now recognize that processes associated with bolide impacts are fundamental to planetary accretion and surface modification (Melosh 1989; Peucker-Ehrenbrink and Schmitz 2001). Incoming meteorites may have been primary sources for Earth’s water, and, perhaps, even organic life as we know it (Thomas et al. 1997; Kring 2000). There is little doubt that impacts played a major role in the evolution of Earth’s biota (Ryder et al. 1996; Hart 1996).
Additional publication details
The Chesapeake Bay Crater: Geology and geophysics of a Late Eocene submarine impact structure