Lithospheric flexure and gravity spreading of Olympus Mons volcano, Mars

Stefanie Musiol, E. P. Holohan, B. Cailleau, T. Platz, A. Dumke, T. R. Walter, David Williams, S. Van Gasselt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


The structural architecture of large volcanoes is governed substantially by gravity-driven deformation that is manifest as distinct processes such as basement flexure or volcanic spreading. Temporal effects and the mutual interplay of these processes have been investigated only to a limited extent, and so we present novel numerical models of the time-dependent deformation associated with them. The models simulate the combined effects of lithospheric flexure and volcanic spreading during growth increments of an elastoplastic volcanic cone. Different spreading scenarios are considered by a variable coupling decoupling behavior at the interface between volcano and basement. We apply our models to Olympus Mons on Mars, which is characterized by upper to middle flank terraces on the shield, is encircled by a basal scarp that has an average slope of 30° and is surrounded by distant deposits that resemble large-scale slumping features on Earth. Our results are consistent with the interpretation that terraces on Olympus Mons' flanks form by thrust faulting that results from lithospheric flexure. The presence and expression of terraces depend on the coupling of volcano and basement, on the time of volcano growth relative to mantle relaxation, and on the cohesion of the edifice. The encircling scarp may be related to a very low friction detachment at the edifice base, which leads to a normal fault regime on the lowermost flanks. With time and volcano growth, predicted stress and faulting regimes migrate only slightly, indicating that the structural architecture of volcanoes is largely set in the very early stages of formation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)255-272
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Planets
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016


  • Mars volcano
  • Olympus Mons
  • finite element model
  • lithospheric flexure
  • terraces
  • volcanic spreading

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


Dive into the research topics of 'Lithospheric flexure and gravity spreading of Olympus Mons volcano, Mars'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this