Geography of Impact Craters

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According to the Earth Impact Database, there are currently 184 verified impact craters that have been documented on earth.  Impact craters form when an object (like a meteor) hits the earth at a high velocity.  Found all over the earth, impact craters can cause a disruption of the earth’s surface that measures only tens of meters across to over 300 kilometers wide. (More: What is an impact crater?)

Finding Impact Craters

Although evidence of impact craters can be found all over the world, unlike the surfaces of Moon, Mars, and Mercury, the earth is geologically active and many of the processes such as erosion, infilling, volcanism, and tectonic activity have worked to cover up evidence of impact craters.  Impact craters on earth range from more than 2 billion years old to just 67 years old (Sikhote-Alin craters in Russia were formed in 1947).  Most of the documented craters are less than 500 million years old as geologic processes have removed or buried signs of the older impact craters.

As a results most of the impact craters have been located with the geologically stable cratons (relatively stable portions of continents composed of shield areas and platform sediments) of North America, Europe, southern Africa, and Australia (Koeberl and Sharpton).  However, the availability of higher resolution satellite imagery and advances in remote sensing, have been helping in locating evidence of impact craters in more remote areas inaccessible by foot. For example, the Kamil crater in Egypt was discovered via Google Earth in 2008.  Likewise, the first known impact crater in central Africa was first identified using satellite imagery.

Largest Impact Crater

The largest impact crater in the world is Vredefort located in South Africa which measures 300 kilometers across and is estimated to be 2.023 billion years old.  The site was added as a  UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005.

Vredefort Dome, Free State, South Africa.

Vredefort Dome, Free State, South Africa.

Geographic Distribution of Impact Craters

Where are impact craters located?  A total of 37 countries have at least one impact crater.  A geographic analysis of 183 impact crater locations shows that a third of all impact craters are located in North America: 32 in Canada, 28 in the United States, and 1 in Mexico.  On the list of the top countries with impact craters, Australia in in third place with 26 impact crater locations.  Rounding out the top five, Russia has 19 and Finland has 10. The full table showing the number of impact craters by country can be found at the bottom of this article.

Map of Impact Craters

An interactive map of the world’s impact craters is below.  The map shows the geographic location of 183 impact craters (source: Wikipedia’s list from the Earth Impact Database).  To access more information about a specific impact crater (age, location, diameter, name, and coordinates), click on one of the blue dots.

Number of Impact Craters by Country

LocationCount
Canada32
USA28
Australia26
Russia19
Finland10
Ukraine7
Sweden6
Brazil5
Algeria4
Estonia4
Kazakhstan4
South Africa4
Antarctica3
Argentina2
Chad2
Germany2
Libya2
Lithuania2
Mauritania2
Norway2
Belarus1
Botswana1
Chile1
DRC1
Egypt1
France1
Ghana1
Greece1
India1
Latvia1
Mexico1
Mongolia1
Namibia1
Poland1
Portugal1
Saudi Arabia1
Tajikistan1

Related:

References

Koeberl, Christian and Virgil L. Sharpton.  N.D. Terrestial Impact Craters Slide Set.  Lunar and Planetary Institute.  Accessed September 5, 2014.

Short, Nicholas M. 2005.  Remote Sensing of Craters.  Accessed September 5, 2014.