The Chesapeake Bay impact structure

Fact Sheet 2015-3071
By: , and 



About 35 million years ago, during late Eocene time, a 2-mile-wide asteroid or comet smashed into Earth in what is now the lower Chesapeake Bay in Virginia. The oceanic impact vaporized, melted, fractured, and (or) displaced the target rocks and sediments and sent billions of tons of water, sediments, and rocks into the air. Glassy particles of solidified melt rock rained down as far away as Texas and the Caribbean. Models suggest that even up to 50 miles away the velocity of the intensely hot air blast was greater than 1,500 miles per hour, and ground shaking was equivalent to an earthquake greater than magnitude 8.0 on the Richter scale. Large tsunamis affected most of the North Atlantic basin. The Chesapeake Bay impact structure is among the 20 largest known impact structures on Earth.

Suggested Citation

Powars, D.S., Edwards, L.E., Gohn, G.S., and Horton, J.W., Jr., 2015, The Chesapeake Bay impact structure: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2015–3071, 2 p.,

ISSN: 2327-6932 (online)

Study Area

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title The Chesapeake Bay impact structure
Series title Fact Sheet
Series number 2015-3071
DOI 10.3133/fs20153071
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Eastern Geology and Paleoclimate Science Center
Description 2 p.
Country United States
State Virginia
Other Geospatial Chesapeake Bay
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N) Y
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details