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Lunar Floor-Fractured Craters: Modes of Dike and Sill Emplacement and Implications of Gas Production and Intrusion Cooling on Surface Morphology and Structure

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

E-pub ahead of print
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>2/01/2018
<mark>State</mark>E-pub ahead of print
Early online date2/01/18
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Lunar floor-fractured craters (FFCs) represent the surface manifestation of a class of shallow crustal intrusions in which magma-filled cracks (dikes) rising to the surface from great depth encounter contrasts in host rock lithology (breccia lens, rigid solidified melt sheet) and intrude laterally to form a sill, laccolith or bysmalith, thereby uplifting and deforming the crater floor. Recent developments in the knowledge of lunar crustal thickness and density structure have enabled important revisions to models of the generation, ascent and eruption of magma, and new knowledge about the presence and behavior of magmatic volatiles has provided additional perspectives on shallow intrusion processes in FFCs. We use these new data to assess the processes that occur during dike and sill emplacement with particular emphasis on tracking the fate and migration of volatiles and their relation to candidate venting processes. FFCs result when dikes are capable of intruding close to the surface, but fail to erupt because of the substructure of their host impact craters, and instead intrude laterally after encountering a boundary where an increase in ductility (base of breccia lens) or rigidity (base of solidified melt sheet) occurs. Magma in dikes approaching the lunar surface experiences increasingly lower overburden pressures: this enhances CO gas formation and brings the magma into the realm of the low pressure release of H2O and sulfur compounds, both factors adding volatiles to those already collected in the rising low-pressure part of the dike tip. High magma rise velocity is driven by the positive buoyancy of the magma in the part of the dike remaining in the mantle. The dike tip overshoots the interface and the consequent excess pressure at the interface drives the horizontal flow of magma to form the intrusion and raise the crater floor. If sill intrusion were controlled by the physical properties at the base of the melt sheet, dikes would be required to approach to within ∼300 m of the surface, and thus eruptions, rather than intrusions, would be very likely to occur; instead, dynamical considerations strongly favor the sub-crustal breccia lens as the location of the physical property contrast localizing lateral intrusion, at a depth of several kilometers. The end of lateral and vertical sill growth occurs when the internal magma pressure equals the external pressure (the intrusion just supports the weight of the overlying crust). Dynamical considerations lead to the conclusion that dike magma volumes are up to ∼1100 km3, and are generally insufficient to form FFCs on the lunar farside; the estimated magma volumes available for injection into sills on the lunar nearside (up to ∼800 km3) are comparable to the observed floor uplift in many smaller FFCs, and thus consistent with these FFCs forming from a single dike emplacement event. In contrast, the thickest intrusions in the largest craters imply volumes requiring multiple dike contributions; these are likely to be events well-separated in time, rather than injection of new magma into a recently-formed and still-cooling intrusion.

We present a temporal sequence of 1) dike emplacement, 2) sill formation and surface deformation, 3) bubble rise, foam layer formation and collapse, 4) intrusion cooling, and a synthesis of predicted deformation sequence and eruption styles. Initial lateral injection of the sill at a depth well below the upper dike tip initiates upbowing of the overburden, leveraging deformation of the crater floor melt sheet above. This is followed by lateral spreading of the sill toward the edges of the crater floor, where crater wall and rim deposit overburden inhibit further lateral growth, and the sill grows vertically into a laccolith or bysmalith, uplifting the entire floor above the intrusion. Subsidiary dikes can be emplaced in the fractures at the uplift margins and will rise to the isostatic level of the initial dike tip; if these contain sufficient volatiles to decrease magma density, eruptions can also occur. This initial phase of intrusion, sill lateral spreading and floor uplift occurs within a few hours after initial dike emplacement. During the subsequent cooling of the sill, bubbles can rise hundreds of meters to the top of the intrusion to create a foam layer; when drainage of gas bubble wall magma occurs in the foam layer, a continuous gas layer forms above the foam. Gas formation and upward migration produces an increase in sill thickness, while subsequent cooling and solidification cause a thickness decreases and subsidence. The total topographic evolution history, following an initial 2 km thick sill intrusion and floor uplift (hours), includes further floor uplift by gas formation and migration (decades; ∼30 m), followed by cooling, solidification and subsidence (∼a century; ∼350 m). An initial 2 km thick sill is predicted to have a final thickness of ∼1.7 km. This predicted sequence of events can be compared with the sequence of floor deformation and volcanism in FFCs in order to test and refine this model.

Bibliographic note

This is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Icarus. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Icarus, ??, ?, 2018 DOI: 10.1016/j.icarus.2017.12.030