Lava Flow Eruption Conditions in the Tharsis Volcanic Province on Mars

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Volcanism has played a major role in modifying the Martian surface. The Tharsis volcanic province dominates the western hemisphere of the planet with numerous effusive volcanic constructs and deposits. Here, we present the results of an in-depth study aimed at characterizing and modeling the emplacement conditions of 40 lava flows in the Tharsis volcanic province. These lava flows display a range of lengths (∼15–310 km), widths (∼0.5–29 km), and thicknesses (∼11–91 m). The volumes and flow masses range from ∼1 to 440 km3 and ∼1011 to 1014 kg, respectively. Using three different models, we calculated a range of eruption rates (0.3–3.5 × 104 m3/s), viscosities (104–107 Pa s), yield strengths (800–104 Pa), and emplacement times (8 h–11 years). While the flow lengths and volumes are typically larger than terrestrial lava flows by an order of magnitude, rheologies and eruption rates are similar based on our findings. Emplacement times suggest that eruptions were active for long periods of time, which implies the presence and persistence of open subsurface pathways. Differences in flow morphology and emplacement conditions across localities within Tharsis highlight different pathways and volumes of available material between the central volcanoes and the plains. The scale of the eruptions suggests there could have been eruption-driven local, regional, and perhaps, global impacts on the Martian climate. The relatively recent age of the eruptions implies that Mars has retained the capability of producing significant localized volcanism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2020JE006791
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Planets
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • Mars
  • effusive eruptions
  • lava flows
  • volcanism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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