An assemblage of lava flow features on Mercury

Paul K. Byrne, Christian Klimczak, David Williams, Debra M. Hurwitz, Sean C. Solomon, James W. Head, Frank Preusker, Jürgen Oberst

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


In contrast to other terrestrial planets, Mercury does not possess a great variety of volcanic features, its history of volcanism instead largely manifest by expansive smooth plains. However, a set of landforms at high northern latitudes on Mercury resembles surface flow features documented on Earth, the Moon, Mars, and Venus. The most striking of such landforms are broad channels that host streamlined islands and that cut through the surrounding intercrater plains. Together with narrower, more sinuous channels, coalesced depressions, evidence for local flooding of intercrater plains by lavas, and a first-order analysis of lava flow rates, the broad channels define an assemblage of flow features formed by the overland flow of, and erosion by, voluminous, high-temperature, low-viscosity lavas. This interpretation is consistent with compositional data suggesting that substantial portions of Mercury's crust are composed of magnesian, iron-poor lithologies. Moreover, the proximity of this partially flooded assemblage to extensive volcanic plains raises the possibility that the formation of these flow features may preface total inundation of an area by lavas emplaced in a flood mode and that they escaped complete burial only due to a waning magmatic supply. Finally, that these broad channels on Mercury are volcanic in nature yet resemble outflow channels on Mars, which are commonly attributed to catastrophic water floods, implies that aqueous activity is not a prerequisite for the formation of such distinctive landforms on any planetary body. Key Points Wide outflow channels occur peripheral to Mercury's northern volcanic plainsSuch features may represent a stage preceding total volcanic plains emplacementTheir volcanic origin has implications for similar landforms on other planets

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1303-1322
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Planets
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2013


  • Mercury
  • lava erosion
  • lava flows
  • outflow channels
  • volcanism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


Dive into the research topics of 'An assemblage of lava flow features on Mercury'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this