|This diagram shows a three-dimensional reconstruction of the submerged Shiva crater (~500 km diameter) at the Mumbai Offshore Basin, western shelf of India from different cross-sectional and geophysical data. The overlying 4.3-mile-thick Cenozoic strata and water column were removed to show the morphology of the crater. – Sankar Chatterjee, Texas Tech University|
A mysterious basin off the coast of India could be the largest, multi-ringed impact crater the world has ever seen. And if a new study is right, it may have been responsible for killing the dinosaurs off 65 million years ago.
Sankar Chatterjee of Texas Tech University and a team of researchers took a close look at the massive Shiva basin, a submerged depression west of India that is intensely mined for its oil and gas resources. Some complex craters are among the most productive hydrocarbon sites on the planet. Chatterjee will present his research at this month’s Annual Meeting of the Geological Society of America in Portland, Oregon.
“If we are right, this is the largest crater known on our planet,” Chatterjee said. “A bolide of this size, perhaps 40 kilometers (25 miles) in diameter creates its own tectonics.”
By contrast, the object that struck the Yucatan Peninsula, and is commonly thought to have killed the dinosaurs was between 8 and 10 kilometers (5 and 6.2 miles) wide.
It’s hard to imagine such a cataclysm. But if the team is right, the Shiva impact vaporized Earth’s crust at the point of collision, leaving nothing but ultra-hot mantle material to well up in its place. It is likely that the impact enhanced the nearby Deccan Traps volcanic eruptions that covered much of western India. What’s more, the impact broke the Seychelles islands off of the Indian tectonic plate, and sent them drifting toward Africa.
The geological evidence is dramatic. Shiva’s outer rim forms a rough, faulted ring some 500 kilometers in diameter, encircling the central peak, known as the Bombay High, which would be 3 miles tall from the ocean floor (about the height of Mount McKinley). Most of the crater lies submerged on India’s continental shelf, but where it does come ashore it is marked by tall cliffs, active faults and hot springs. The impact appears to have sheared or destroyed much of the 30-mile-thick granite layer in the western coast of India.
The team hopes to go India later this year to examine rocks drill from the center of the putative crater for clues that would prove the strange basin was formed by a gigantic impact.
“Rocks from the bottom of the crater will tell us the telltale sign of the impact event from shattered and melted target rocks. And we want to see if there are breccias, shocked quartz, and an iridium anomaly,” Chatterjee said. Asteroids are rich in iridium, and such anomalies are thought of as the fingerprint of an impact.
Abstract: The Significance Of The Contemporaneous Shiva Impact Structure And Deccan Volcanism At The Kt Boundary
CHATTERJEE, Sankar, Geosciences, Texas Tech Univ, MS Box 41053, Lubbock, TX 79409-3191, firstname.lastname@example.org and MEHROTRA, Naresh M., Paleobotany, Birbal Sahni Institute of Paleobotany, 53 University Road, Lucknow, 226007, India
India was ground zero for two catastrophic events, the Shiva impact and Deccan volcanism at the KT boundary that have been linked to the dinosaur extinction. The buried and multiringed Shiva crater (~500 km diameter) on the western shelf of India is the remnant of a giant meteorite impact that left high-resolution stratigraphic signals in the sedimentary and volcanic rocks such as shocked quartz, iridium anomaly, nickel-rich spinels, sanidine spherules, magnetic nanoparticles, high pressure fullerenes, megatsunami deposits, and melt lavas. The Shiva crater is the largest hydrocarbon reserve in India, where the central uplift, the Bombay High, and the associated brecciated bodies and peripheral strata form ideal structural traps for oil and gas. The Shiva bolide (~40 km diameter) would generate lethal amount of kinetic energy of 1.45 x 1025 joules. The impact was so powerful that it led to several geodynamic anomalies: it fragmented, sheared, and deformed the lithosphere mantle across the western Indian margin and contributed to major plate reorganization in the Indian Ocean. It initiated rifting between India and Seychelles in the west and created the Laxmi Ridge; it shattered the Indian plate easterly along the Narmada-Son Rift extending 1500 km across, dividing the Indian shield into a southern peninsular block and a northern foreland block. Because of topographic barrier of the Western Ghat Mountain range, the impact-triggered tsunami was restricted along the Narmada-Son Rift at the KT boundary. The relationships between large meteoritic impact, hotspot, flood basalt volcanism, plate tectonics, geodynamic anomalies, and sudden environmental catastrophe on Earth may open up a new field of unified investigation. Although the Reunion hotspot responsible for Deccan eruption was close to the Shiva crater in time and space, impact probably triggered a component of the Deccan Trap: the iridium-rich alkaline igneous complex rocks that were emplaced asymmetrically as a fluid ejecta at the KT boundary along the NE downrange direction of the bolide trajectory outside the crater ring. Two large impacts such as Shiva and Chicxulub in quick succession on the antipodal position, in concert with Deccan eruptions, would have devastating effects globally leading to climatic and environmental catastrophes that wiped out dinosaurs and many other organisms at the KT boundary.
Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, Vol. 41, No. 7, p. 160