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SWLGS Luncheon Topics

Updated Sept. 3, 2006

Sept 2006

Chicxulub Impact: Dinosaur Killer and Geophysicist’s Playground By: Gary Kinsland, University of Louisiana @Lafayette


Abstract Summary

The Chicxulub Impact Structure is centered along the northern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula almost directly south of New Orleans. Because of this location about one half of the structure is buried but on shore and the other one half is buried offshore. The structure was originally recognized by the Mexicans who mapped the area with gravity data in the ‘50s and ‘60s. They drilled a few wells, found “igneous rock” and abandoned their search for petroleum. In 1981 Penfield and Carmargo hypothesized that the structure was the result of an impact. Pope et al. (1991) and Hildebrand et al. (1991) proposed that the structure was in fact the site of an impact responsible for the Cretaceous/Tertiary (K/T) extinction. I began to work on the structure in 1993 when serendipity allowed me to work with Kevin Pope and Adriana Ocampo. Adriana had some research money which funded a two week trip to the Yucatan to collect gravity data. Since then I have continued to work on the gravity and topography of the impact site. In 2002 I was able to get SEG funding to collect some more gravity data and some GPS topography data. I have also acquired the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) data for the area. Now I have gravity data and topography data in a 3D virtual reality (3D VR) system at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette created by Dr. Christoph Borst. He and I are collaborating on developing the system to aid geological/geophysical interpretations and are interpreting the Chicxulub data within it. I will show some of the data I work with as I see it in the 3D VR system (although you will only see in 2D). I can guarantee you that I have been able to interpret features in this environment that I was not even able to see in the several other types of displays that I had previously created. I will also show some of the other geophysical data for the feature and emphasize that geophysics is key to understanding this feature as it has been buried by hundreds to thousands of meters of Cenozoic carbonates. While this makes it “the best preserved crater in the world” it also makes it relatively inaccessible except to geophysicists.

Biographical Sketch
Dr. Gary L. Kinsland, Pioneer Production Endowed Professor of Geology and Petroleum Engineering Geology Department, University of Louisiana at Lafayette grew up on the coast of Oregon where he attended high school at Coquille High. Scholarships allowed him to attend the University of Rochester (UR) in Rochester, New York where he obtained a B.S. in Physics in 1969. Having decided during his sophomore year that he wanted to study geology he changed departments at UR for his graduate education and entered the geology program in the fall of 1969. He received an M.S. in geology in 1971 and his Ph. D. in 1974. The research for these graduate degrees was in high pressure, diamond anvil high pressure studies related to the properties of the earth’s mantle. After a couple of years of post-doc at UR Gary took a one year visiting assistant professor position at Arizona State University, where he actually learned something about exploration geophysics because he had to teach it. That experience allow him to come to Louisiana in 1977 as an assistant professor for mineralogy and geophysics…the first geophysicist at (then) USL. He has been here since and has taught and done research involving gravity, magnetics and seismics.