Geological myth busting: Extraterrestrials really don't impact volcanoes?

November 08, 2001

The idea that volcanoes can erupt when the Earth is smacked by a large comet or meteorite has become a popular idea in geology. But one challenger of this idea says there's no proof to back it up.

"Not only is there not any firm evidence that an impact started a volcanic eruption on Earth or on any other planet, there is no known mechanism by which this can occur," explained Jay Melosh, professor of Planetary Sciences at the University of Arizona. Melosh will present new research that substantiates his case against this widely-held idea on Thursday, November 8, at the Geological Society of America's annual meeting, A Geo-Odyssey, in Boston, Massachusetts.

"I will offer both evidence of the lack of impact-induced volcanism on other heavily-impacted planets in our solar system and a theoretical analysis of the conditions created by a large impact on Earth," he said. "This is new research based on both observational studies of planetary images and theoretical studies of the conditions surrounding an impact crater. It does build on previous efforts by a number of researchers."
Written by Kara LeBeau, GSA Staff Writer


During the GSA Annual Meeting, November 4-8, contact Ann Cairns or Christa Stratton at the GSA Newsroom in the Hynes Convention Center, Boston, Massachusetts, for assistance and to arrange for interviews: (617) 954-3214.

The abstract for this presentation is available at:

Post-meeting contact information:

Jay Melosh
Lunar and Planetary Lab-West
University of Arizona
Tucson AZ 85721 USA
Phone: (520) 621-2806

Ann Cairns
Director of Communications
Geological Society of America
Phone: 303-357-1056
Fax: 303-357-1074

For more information about GSA visit our Web site at:

Geological Society of America

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