Density current origin of a melt-bearing impact ejecta blanket (Ries suevite, Germany)
journal contributionposted on 31.01.2018, 14:33 by Susann Siegert, Michael J. Branney, Lutz Hecht
Melt-bearing clastic deposits (suevites) at impact craters have traditionally been regarded as plume fallout deposits. We present new field, textural, and chemical evidence that the subcircular blanket of suevite at the type locality, the Ries impact crater, Germany, was emplaced by a radial, granular fluid–based particulate density current, analogous to those that form ignimbrites of volcanic origin. Newly mapped chemical zoning patterns in the blanket record the response of the current to changing topography during the earliest modification stages of impact crater formation. The eastern sector of the suevite blanket has a different high field strength element composition than the western sector. The crater-fill facies also shows vertical gradational zoning that records changes in the composition of suevite deposited with time. The lateral zoning is best explained by radial outflow of the density currents, but changes in the crater topography caused the flow directions of the melt-bearing density current to change (return flow). The later convergence of flow paths allowed more thorough mixing in the crater, and is recorded by the more uniform composition of the later deposited upper parts of the crater-fill suevite. Emplacement by density currents is indicated by (1) topography-influenced (ponded) thickness variations of the suevite sheet, (2) very poor sorting, (3) matrix support, (4) massive nature, (5) subtle coarse-tail grading, (6) abundant elutriation pipes, (7) abundance of broken and whole matrix-supported concentric-laminated accretionary lapilli in uppermost parts, and (8) an inverse-graded basal layer with low-angle cross-stratification. These are classic features of deposits from granular fluid–based density currents, such as ignimbrites deposited by pyroclastic density currents at explosive caldera volcanoes, but differ markedly from fallout deposits worldwide.