Europa's South Pole Region: A sequential reconstruction of surface modification processes

Jeannie Riley, Richard Greenberg, Alyssa Sarid

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


High-resolution images of a region near the south pole of Europa allow reconstruction of a series of events, tectonic and thermal, that displaced and modified the surface. This approach is complementary to regional geological mapping, which is based on less detailed images, but covers a broader sample of the surface. The events reconstructed in this locale resurfaced about half the area or more, so they probably ranged over a substantial fraction of the age of Europa's surface, which in itself is quite young (< 50 Myr) due to the cumulative effects of such local (or regional) reprocessing events acting over the entire globe. Chaotic terrain was formed (probably by thermal processes) both early and late in the sequence. Trends in changing geological processes that had been inferred from lower-resolution images in regional geological mapping efforts, especially an increase in formation of chaotic terrain with time, which had been widely interpreted as implying a thickening of the ice crust, are not evident in this area. The impression that chaotic terrain is a relatively recent phenomenon may come from the fact that older chaotic terrain can be more difficult to identify, especially in the lower-resolution images used for geological mapping. This study reinforces the conclusion that both chaotic terrain and tectonic features have been formed by competing processes that have resurfaced Europa through much of its geologic history.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)808-821
Number of pages14
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Aug 30 2006


  • Chaos
  • Europa
  • Geological processes
  • Ice
  • Planetary geology
  • Tectonics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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