Some features of this site are not compatible with your browser. Install Opera Mini to
better experience this site.
Relief Map, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
This page contains archived content and is no longer being updated. At the time of publication, it represented the best available science. However, more recent observations and studies may have rendered some content obsolete.
This shaded relief image of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula show a
subtle, but unmistakable, indication of the Chicxulub impact crater.
Most scientists now agree that this impact was the cause of the
Cretatious-Tertiary Extinction, the event 65 million years ago that
marked the sudden extinction of the dinosaurs as well as the majority of
life then on Earth.
Most of the peninsula is visible here, along with the island of
Cozumel off the east coast. The Yucatan is a plateau composed mostly of
limestone and is an area of very low relief with elevations varying by
less than a few hundred meters (about 500 feet.) In this
computer-enhanced image the topography has been greatly exaggerated to
highlight a semicircular trough, the darker green arcing line at the
upper left corner of the peninsula. This trough is only about 3 to 5
meters (10 to 15 feet) deep and is about 5 km. wide (3 miles), so subtle
that if you walked across it you probably would not notice it, and is a
surface expression of the crater’s outer boundary. Scientists believe
the impact, which was centered just off the coast in the Caribbean,
altered the subsurface rocks such that the overlying limestone
sediments, which formed later and erode very easily, would
preferentially erode on the vicinity of the crater rim. This formed the
trough as well as numerous sinkholes (called cenotes) which are visible
as small circular depressions.
Two visualization methods were combined to produce the image: shading
and color coding of topographic height. The shade image was derived by
computing topographic slope in the northwest-southeast direction, so
that northwestern slopes appear bright and southeastern slopes appear
dark. Color coding is directly related to topographic height, with green
at the lower elevations, rising through yellow and tan, to white at the
Location: 20.8 degrees North latitude, 89.3 degrees West longitude
Orientation: North toward the top, Mercator projection
Image Data: shaded and colored SRTM elevation model
Original Data Resolution: SRTM 1 arcsecond (about 30 meters or 98 feet)
Date Acquired: February 2000