On the eruptive origins of lunar localized pyroclastic deposits

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4 Scopus citations


Localized pyroclastic deposits (LPDs) are low-albedo accumulates of pyroclastic material with distinct positive topographic signatures that are found dominantly along highland-mare boundaries. Previous workers hypothesized that LPDs represent products of a lunar equivalent of Vulcanian-style eruptions, based in part on the observation that some of the deposits in Alphonsus Crater have large vent volumes in comparison with their deposit volumes, indicating a low proportion of juvenile material in the deposits. The objective of this study is to better understand eruption mechanisms by determining how the proportion of juvenile material, as calculated using deposit and vent volumes, varies among LPDs in Alphonsus Crater and elsewhere on the Moon using contemporary data and methods. Deposit and vent volumes for 23 LPDs from eleven sites were calculated by differencing current and modeled pre-eruption surfaces using digital terrain models (DTMs) derived from Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera Narrow Angle Camera (LROC NAC). Results show that LPDs have a wide range of juvenile proportions, many of which are more juvenile-rich than previously thought. Additionally, there is a positive relationship between juvenile material proportion and deposit volume and thickness, and a positive relationship between juvenile volume and dispersal area. LPDs also bear a broad range of thinning profiles which span a range of multiple eruption types on Earth. These findings, along with previous studies employing spectroscopic analysis of these deposits, indicate there is greater diversity among LPDs in composition and morphometry than previously understood, and that previously published simplified Vulcanian models may apply only to the deposits containing the least amount of juvenile material, with all others perhaps requiring a combination of multiple eruptive mechanisms. Furthermore, dynamic model results suggest that the most widespread lunar deposits in this study were formed by magma containing 2000–5000 ppm of dissolved volatiles, consistent with recent estimates via melt inclusion analysis, but contrary to long-held ideas that the Moon was largely degassed during its formation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number116426
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
StatePublished - Oct 1 2020


  • Moon
  • Moon, surface
  • basaltic volcanism
  • explosive volcanism
  • lunar volatiles
  • volcanism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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