The Decorah structure, recently discovered in northeastern Iowa, now appears as an almost entirely subsurface, deeply eroded circular basin 5.6 km in diameter and ∼200 m deep, that truncates a near-horizontal series of Upper Cambrian to Lower Ordovician platform sediments. Initial analysis of geological and well-drilling data indicated characteristics suggestive of meteorite impact: a circular outline, a shallow basin shape, discordance with the surrounding geology, and a filling of anomalous sediments: (1) the organic-rich Winneshiek Shale, which hosts a distinctive fossil Lagerstätte, (2) an underlying breccia composed of fragments from the surrounding lithologies, and (3) a poorly known series of sediments that includes shale and possible breccia. Quartz grains in drill samples of the breccia unit contain abundant distinctive shock-deformation features in ∼1% of the individual quartz grains, chiefly planar fractures (cleavage) and planar deformation features (PDFs). These features provide convincing evidence that the Decorah structure originated by meteorite impact, and current models of meteorite crater formation indicate that it formed as a complex impact crater originally ∼6 km in diameter. The subsurface characteristics of the lower portion of the structure are not well known; in particular, there is no evidence for the existence of a central uplift, a feature generally observed in impact structures of comparable size. The current estimated age of the Decorah structure (460−483 Ma) suggests that it may be associated with a group of Middle Ordovician impact craters (a terrestrial “impact spike”) triggered by collisions in the asteroid belt at ca. 470 Ma.
The Decorah structure, northeastern Iowa: Geology and evidence for formation by meteorite impact
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Bevan M. French, Robert M. McKay, Huaibao P. Liu, Derek E.G. Briggs, Brian J. Witzke; The Decorah structure, northeastern Iowa: Geology and evidence for formation by meteorite impact. GSA Bulletin doi: https://doi.org/10.1130/B31925.1
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