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“The convincing identification of
terrestrial meteorite impact
structures: What works, what
doesn’t, and why”
by Kord Ernstson & Ferran Claudin (Dec. 2013)
Abstract. – We use and variegate the title of this article published in Earth-Science Reviews
to show how science may (mal)function and how a few exposed impact researchers (the
authors of the Earth-Science Reviews article included) are counteracting exactly the ideas
presented in that article.
“The convincing identification of terrestrial meteorite impact structures: What works, what
doesn’t, and why” is the title of a comprehensive and in principle not too bad article written
by Bevan M. French and Christian Koeberl and published in Earth-Science Reviews
(French & Koeberl 2010). We however would like to take up this title to once more point to
the large Azuara and Rubielos de la Cérida impact structures in Spain and the related
controversy shedding light on how science can be manipulated, in this case with regard to
some impact researchers from the so-called “impact community” (whatever that may be).
2 What doesn’t work
With a slight modification we begin with “what doesn’t work”. As for the identification of
meteorite impact structures it obviously doesn’t work to publish clear and generally
accepted impact shock features (like they are addressed in that article) to get an impact
structure being established. This holds true for both the Azuara and Rubielos de la Cérida
impact sites that are still opposed vehemently by a few leading impact researchers. Apart
from the manifold geologic and geophysical evidence like ubiquitous monomictic and
polymictic breccias, large systems of monomictic and polymictic breccia dikes, enormous
and extended megabreccias, shatter cones, extended impact ejecta, gravity and geomagnetic
anomalies, the unambiguously established shock metamorphism like shock melt, planar
deformation features (PDFs) and diaplectic glass in various minerals appears not to
convince (title!) Koeberl, Langenhorst, Spray and others. Therefore, we once more present a
collection of impact shock features from the Azuara and Rubielos de la Cérida impact
structures in Spain that have all been published earlier in various journals:
Azuara impact structure: Planar deformation features (PDFs)
Estructura de impacto de Azuara: rasgos de deformación planar (PDFs)
Fig. 1 A-D: PDFs in quartz from the Azuara impact structure. A, B: in quartzite rocks from
the impact ejecta deposit (Pelarda Fm.). C: from a polymictic strongly shocked breccia. D:
Frequency diagram of Azuara PDFs based on data elaborated by Dr. A. Therriault. All
figures have been published earlier.
An independent investigation of PDFs in samples from the Azuara impact structure (a
polymictic dike breccia and Pelarda Fm. ejecta) was made at the Geological Survey of
Canada by Dr. Ann Therriault (Therriault 2000). She analyzed the crystallographical
orientation of PDFs in quartz (Fig. 1 D) and other parameters such as density, sharpness,
spacing, and spreading over the grain (Fig. 1 C). And we cite from her report: Up to five
sets of PDFs per grain were observed. The spacing is 1 !m or less, the PDF density high.
Practically all sets are decorated. All shocked grains have reduced birefringence of 0.004 –
Azuara impact structure: diaplectic quartz crystals and diaplectic glass
Fig. 2 A, B. Diaplectic quartz crystal and a sandstone fragment completely transferred to
diaplectic glass. These examples of strong shock in the Azuara structure have frequently
been published earlier.
Azuara impact structure: shock melt
Fig. 3 A, B. Melt glass from a strongly shocked polymictic breccia in the Azuara impact
structure. These examples of strong shock in the Azuara structure have frequently been
Rubielos de la Cérida impact structure: planar deformation features (PDFs) and
diaplectic glass Estructura de impacto de Rubielos de la Cérida: rasgos de
deformación planar y vidrio diapléctico
Fig. 4. Rubielos de la Cérida impact structure: Diaplectic glass and multiple sets of PDFs in
quartz. Published earlier.
Fig. 5. Rubielos de la Cérida impact structure: feldspar grain completely transferred to
diaplectic glass. Published earlier.
Rubielos de la Cérida: impact shock melt
Fig. 6. Rubielos de la Cérida impact structure: melt glass; suevite from the Barrachina
megabreccia. Published earlier.
Fig. 7A, B. Rubielos de la Cérida impact structure: silicate melt rock composed of more
than 90% pure glass. Under the optical microscope and the SEM. Published earlier.
Azuara impact structure: Multiple sets of planar fractures (PF
Fig. 8. Quartz grain from a highly shocked polymictic impact breccia, Azuara impact
structure, exhibiting at least four sets of planar fractures.
Here we explicitly cite the text in the French & Koeberl article: “Multiple PF sets are
definitely the product of impact-generated shock waves; they are developed in the rocks of
established impact structures while being absent in the surrounding undeformed country
This image with the Azuara multiple PFs has been published on many occasions, for the
first time already in the early paper of Ernstson et al (1985) on Azuara.
The figures shown here are only a very small extract of the host of evidences of clear shock
in the Azuara and Rubielos de la Cérida impact structures (also presented here on our
impact websites), and we request Langenhorst, Koeberl, Spray and others to directly and
straightforward explain why this clear shock evidence matching all impact literature and
findings in impact structures all over the world in their opinion is no shock. We ask them to
explain why they ignore the sound investigation (the original 31 pages report being at our
disposal) of their colleague Dr. Ann Therriault on the Azuara PDFs.
3 What works
With regard to the above presented, on many occasions published clear impact evidence for
the large Spanish impact structures, and the reaction of a few exposed impact researchers
we clearly see what obviously works: again and again negating, suppressing, disqualifying,
manipulating and wrongly or not at all referring to the published Azuara and Rubielos de
la Cérida material, and we only mention Langenhorst & Deutsch (1996), Langenhorst
(2002), French & Koeberl (2010), and the Canadian Earth Impact Database at the New
Brunswick university, managed by John Spray. Of course, this stimulates quite a few other
researchers to uncritically adopt this seemingly mainstream “wisdoms”, and in a few cases
they even have “an ax to grind” (examples are well documented).
A typical example of what works is the Canadian Impact Data Base. In a written inquiry
Ferran Claudin asked John Spray why the Azuara structure formerly established as a proven
impact had been eliminated from the database and why also Rubielos de la Cérida despite
overwhelming impact evidence has not been recorded. Moreover, Ferran offered to send
him reprints of all published articles on the impacts. John Spray wrote back that Ferran
were free to do it but that he, John Spray, would not read the articles. And hence the
Spanish impact structures are further on being ignored in that database. In more detail
we’ve written about this (mal)functioning of science here on our websites (see Earth Impact
Database – Database of Earth Impact Structures – Meteorite
Craters and Controversy andAzuara shock effects.
To underline the “what works” in manipulating science we explicitly refer to the French &
Koeberl article under discussion and how the Spanish impact structures are discredited.
French & Koeberl are writing of “recent reports of evidence for impact” and refer to the
1985 (!) very early paper by Ernstson et al. on the Azuara impact. In addition they refer to
the Ernstson et al. paper of 2001 that in fact could be termed “recent”. However this is not a
report of evidence for the Azuara and Rubielos de la Cérida impacts but a report on special
impact features in shocked conglomerates (Ernstson et al. 2001) related to the these impact
structures. The crucial point in this connection is the fact, that the 1985 and the 2001 papers
are referred to by French & Koeberl, but not the other basic publications of Ernstson &
Fiebag (1992), Ernstson & Claudin (1990), Hradil et al. (2001), Claudin et al. (2001),
Ernstson et al. (2001 a, b; 2002) on the prominent impacts in Spain. Instead, and this must
be termed a masterpiece of manipulating science, French & Koeberl refer to the
comprehensive Ernstson et al. (2002) paper on Azuara and Rubielos (summarizing ALL
geological, geophysical, mineralogical and shock metamorphism impact evidence) NOT as
a proof for impact but solely in relation with the above mentioned conglomerates. Thus,
they declare the Azuara and Rubielos de la Cérida impact evidence as non-existent and are
speaking of “possible impact structures” and, to cap it all off, writing that “no other, more
convincing, evidence of impact has yet been provided for those two Spanish structures.”
Once more: a masterpiece of manipulating science.
The question why scientists behave like just described for the impact researchers
Langenhorst, Koeberl, Spray and others is a long and old story exemplified from all
scientific disciplines, and envy, resentment, even malevolence, scientific payback, striving
for power, and financial aspects (funding) are always found as impetus.
In the special case of the Spanish impact structures we well understand (without approving
it) that a few Spanish regional geologists are doing all they can to eliminate the impact
structures and the giant Azuara impact event, that considerably changed the younger
Tertiary geology of Northern Spain, from the geologic scene. They have worked for
decades in the regions of the impacts, they have written big theses on the regional geology,
and they are now confronted with a new geology while not understanding impact processes
and impact geology (which we have addressed on the Controversy pages).
The case with Koeberl, Langenhorst, Spray and others is different. Although they have
obviously never been in Spain to study the fantastic impact scenarios, THEY understand
impact, and THEY are well able to read and verify the classic impact and shock evidence
for Azuara and Rubielos de la Cérida presented in the many publications. And they
probably well understand that the big multiple impacts of the Azuara event are more or less
exceptional among the very big terrestrial impact sites with the innumerable and easily
accessible highlighting outcrops of impact geology and impact features. And this is the very
point: THEY (in their opinion being the impact Big Boys) are NOT involved in the
investigation and research of this spectacular impact. And along the lines of “If I can’t have
it, then nobody else should have it either“, or “If I can’t have it, then I ruin it for you” the
Spanish impact structures are massacred.
Although the article by French & Koeberl (2010) presents a useful compilation of impact
features, the unmissable manipulation of scientific results already practiced earlier also
by Langenhorst & Deutsch (1996) and Langenhorst (2002) and focused on the large
Spanish Azuara and Rubielos de la Cérida impact structures does serious harm to research,
and it does impact science in general a bad turn – to say the best of it.
French & Koeberl are presenting as unambiguous proof for shock and meteorite impact
– multiple sets of planar fractures in quartz (their figures 11,12 and text on page 134)
– diaplectic glass from various minerals (their text on pages 131, 132)
– planar deformation features with frequency diagrams of crystallographic orientations
(their figures 16, 17, 18, 19 and text on pages 136, 137),
and at the same time they ignore exactly these clear shock features in the Spanish impact
structures (see our Figs. 1-8). That is they defraud the reader when they are speaking of
“possible” Azuara and Rubielos de la Cérida impacts and “no convincing evidence”. Hence,
the heap of structures and related references addressed in the French & Koeberl paper
should not hide the fact that the article has to be considered with caution and that it is
obviously not a solid and reliable reference in impact research, all the more as important
impact features like, e.g., impact shock spallation in rocks and minerals are simply missing.
Claudin, K., Ernstson, K., Rampino, M.R., and Anguita, F.: Striae, polish, imprints, rotated
fractures, and related features in the Puerto Mínguez impact ejecta (NE Spain). Abstracts,
6th ESF IMPACT workshop, Impact Markers in the Stratigraphic record, pp. 15-16, 2001.
Ernstson, K., Rampino, M.R., and Hiltl, M.: Shock-induced spallation in Triassic
Buntsandstein conglomerates (Spain): an impact marker in the vicinity of large impacts.
Abstracts, 6th ESF IMPACT workshop, Impact Markers in the Stratigraphic record, pp. 25-
Ernstson, K., Claudin, F., Schüssler, U., Anguita, F, and Ernstson, T.: Impact melt rocks,
shock metamorphism, and structural features in the Rubielos de la Cérida structure, Spain:
evidence of a companion to the Azuara impact structure. Abstracts, 6th ESF IMPACT
workshop, Impact Markers in the Stratigraphic record, pp. 23-24, 2001.
Ernstson, K., Rampino, M.R. & Hiltl, M.: Cratered of cobbles in Triassic Buntsandstein
conglomerates in NE Spain: Shock deformation of in-situ deposits in the vicinity of large
impacts. Geology, v. 29, no.1, 11-14, 2001.
Ernstson, K., Hamman, W., Fiebag, J. & Graup, G.: Evidence of an impact origin for the
Azuara structure (Spain). – Earth Planet. Sci. Let., 74, 361-370, 1985.
Ernstson, K. & Claudin, F.: Pelarda Formation (Eastern Iberian Cains, NE Spain): Ejecta of
the Azuara impact structure. – N.Jb.Geol.Paläont.Mh., 1990, 581-599, 1990.
Ernstson, K. & Fiebag, J.: The Azuara impact structure (Spain): new insights from
geophysical and geological investigations. – Int. J. Earth Sci., 81/2, 403-427, 1992.
French, B.M. & Koeberl, C.: The convincing identification of terrestrial meteorite impact
structures: What works, what doesn’t, and why. – Earth-Science Reviews, 98, 123-170,
Hradil, K., Schüssler, U., and Ernstson, K.: Silicate, phosphate and carbonate melts as
indicators for an impact-related high-temperature influence on sedimentary rocks of the
Rubielos de la Cérida structure, Spain. Abstracts, 6th ESF IMPACT workshop, Impact
Markers in the Stratigraphic record, pp. 49-50, 2001.
Langenhorst, F. : Shock metamorphism of some minerals: Basic introduction and
microstructural observations. – Bulletin of the Czech Geological Survey, Vol. 77, No. 4,
Langenhorst & Deutsch (1996): The Azuara and Rubielos structures, Spain: Twin impact
craters or Alpine thrust systems? TEM investigations on deformed quartz disprove shock
origin (abstract). Lunar and Planetary Science, v. XXVII: 725-726.
B. Martin (2012): Suppression of Dissent:
What It Is and What to Do About It. Social Medecine, Vol. 6, núm 4, pags: 246-248.
Therriault, A. (2000): Report on Azuara, Spain, PDFs, 31 p.