Stirred not shaken; critical evaluation of a proposed Archean meteorite impact in West Greenland

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Large meteorite impacts have a profound effect on the Earth's geosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere. It is widely accepted that the early Earth was subject to intense bombardment from 4.5 to 3.8 Ga, yet evidence for subsequent bolide impacts during the Archean Eon (4.0 to 2.5 Ga) is sparse. However, understanding the timing and magnitude of these early events is important, as they may have triggered significant change points to global geochemical cycles. The Maniitsoq region of southern West Greenland has been proposed to record a ∼3.0 Ga meteorite impact, which, if confirmed, would be the oldest and only known impact structure to have survived from the Archean. Such an ancient structure would provide the first insight into the style, setting, and possible environmental effects of impact bombardment continuing into the late Archean. Here, using field mapping, geochronology, isotope geochemistry, and electron backscatter diffraction mapping of 5,587 zircon grains from the Maniitsoq region (rock and fluvial sediment samples), we test the hypothesis that the Maniitsoq structure represents Earth's earliest known impact structure. Our comprehensive survey shows that previously proposed impact-related geological features, ranging from microscopic structures at the mineral scale to macroscopic structures at the terrane scale, as well as the age and geochemistry of the rocks in the Maniitsoq region, can be explained through endogenic (non-impact) processes. Despite the higher impact flux, intact craters from the Archean Eon remain elusive on Earth.
Original languageEnglish
Article number116730
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021

    Research areas

  • bolide, impact, Maniitsoq, North Atlantic Craton, planar deformation features, zircon

ID: 255127491