Impact Craters

Oceans suppress crater formation

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Science  22 Jan 2021:
Vol. 371, Issue 6527, pp. 359-360
DOI: 10.1126/science.371.6527.359-f

Asteroid impacts leave craters on land, but much of Earth's surface is ocean. Impacts on sufficiently shallow water should still produce some craters, though fewer than expected have been found. Nishizawa et al. performed laboratory hypervelocity impact experiments onto targets submerged in water. Extrapolating these to asteroid-scale impacts shows that the energy dissipation is more efficient than previous computer simulations had suggested, owing to deformation and fragmentation of the impactor in the water. Crater formation is suppressed when the water depth is only a few times the diameter of the impacting object, potentially explaining why so few underwater craters have been found on Earth.

J. Geophys. Res. E Planets 125, e2019JE006291 (2020).

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