Did the Middlesboro, Kentucky, bolide impact event influence coal rank?

James C. Hower, Stephen F. Greb, Kenneth W. Kuehn, Cortland F. Eble

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The Middlesboro Basin, southeastern Kentucky, occurs on the Cumberland Overthrust Sheet and includes a ca. 5.5-km diameter impact structure. The Lower and Middle Pennsylvanian coal-bearing strata are faulted, with some evidence for shock metamorphism. The event post-dated the latest-Pennsylvanian-early-Permian thrusting and was likely prior to late-Mesozoic entrenchment of drainages. The impact of a 0.5-km meteor traveling at ca. 60,000 km/h would release about 1 EJ, the approximate equivalent of the instantaneous combustion of 30 Mt of coal. The coal rank, while increased slightly above the regional level, still is within the upper portion of the high volatile A bituminous rank range. This helps to constrain the depth of burial at the time of the impact. The coal would have had to have been at a depth of a few kilometers to have avoided a more substantial rank increase. In addition, it is possible that some of the coal rank increase might be attributable to movements along the cross-cutting Rocky Face fault, unrelated to the impact.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)92-96
Number of pages5
JournalInternational Journal of Coal Geology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 1 2009


  • Bolide impact
  • Coal rank
  • Faulting
  • Thermal metamorphism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Fuel Technology
  • Geology
  • Economic Geology
  • Stratigraphy


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