Abstract

A 180-km-diameter semicircular band of abundant karst sinkholes (Ring of Cenotes) in northwest Yucatan, Mexico, coincides approximately with a concentric ring of the buried Chicxulub structure, a circular feature manifested in Cretaceous and older rocks, that has been identified as the product of the impact of a bolide. The ring, expressed in Tertiary rocks, marks a zone of high permeability as shown by (1) the sinkholes themselves, (2) breaks in the coastal dune system and high density of springs where the ring intersects the coast, and (3) water-level transects characterized by a decline in water level toward the ring. Any direct relation that exists between the Ring of Cenotes and the Chicxulub structure bears on regional hydrogeology. If the layer or zone responsible for the ring is deeply buried, it may act as a barrier to the movement of ground water across the main flow direction. Shallower zones of horizontal permeability could result in less complete diversion of ground water. Through its influence on Yucatan aquifer characteristics, the ring may provide a link between modern environmental problems and astrogeology. Possible origins for the Ring of Cenotes are (1) faulting, perhaps reactivated by post-Eocene–mid-Miocene basin loading, (2) permeability in a buried reef complex developed in the shallow Paleocene sea around the crater rim, or (3) breccia collapse occasioned by consolidation or by solution of evaporite components. If the ring developed on ancient faults, it may outline hydrothermal systems and mineral deposits produced during Paleocene cooling of the Chicxulub melt sheet.

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