Evidence for recent and ancient faulting at Mare Frigoris and implications for lunar tectonic evolution

Nathan R. Williams, James F. Bell, Thomas R. Watters, Maria E. Banks, Katie Daud, Renee A. French

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Nearside basin-related extensional tectonism on the Moon was thought to have ended by about 3.6 billion years ago and mare basin-localized contractional deformation ended by about 1.2 billion years ago. Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) high resolution (50–200 cm/pixel) images show the Moon's surface in unprecedented detail and have enabled us to find many previously unidentified tectonic landforms, forcing a re-assessment of our views of tectonism in the maria. The morphology and stratigraphic relationships of these newly identified populations of tectonic landforms imply a more complex and longer-lasting history of deformation. We selected Mare Frigoris as an ideal location to perform a mapping survey where excellent imaging conditions, abundant tectonic landforms, and restricted mascon allow us to unravel the mare's tectonic evolution. Similar to previous surveys, we find that tectonism in the eastern portion of Mare Frigoris was controlled by ancient mascon induced flexure. In the western portion, however, we identify a parallel set of ancient compressional wrinkle ridges across the mare that is inconsistent with an origin by mare basin-centric mascon flexure or influence from the Mare Imbrium mascon. Instead, our results imply an ancient, regional, non-isotropic stress field over western Mare Frigoris. We also identify young wrinkle ridges and show that they have likely been active within the last 1 billion years, and some ridges as recently as within 40 million years. Finally, we identify a 300 km long series of lobate scarps coincident with one of the shallow moonquakes recorded during Apollo and use geodetic strain from the mapped global population of young lobate scarps to predict a level of seismicity consistent with the shallow moonquakes recorded during Apollo. In tandem with similarly young lobate scarps and small graben, as well as recorded shallow moonquakes, these young wrinkle ridges imply that some tectonism in and around Mare Frigoris has occurred in the geologically recent past and likely still continues today.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)151-161
Number of pages11
StatePublished - Jul 1 2019


  • Frigoris
  • Geophysics
  • Graben
  • Mare
  • Moon
  • Ridge
  • Scarp
  • Tectonics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Evidence for recent and ancient faulting at Mare Frigoris and implications for lunar tectonic evolution'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this