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Volcano-ice interactions in the Arsia Mons tropical mountain glacier deposits

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date15/07/2014
JournalIcarus
Volume237
Number of pages25
Pages315-339
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Fan-shaped deposits (FSD) superposed on the sides of the Tharsis Montes volcanic edifices are widely interpreted to have been formed by cold-based glaciation during the Late Amazonian, a period when the Tharsis Montes were volcanically active. We survey the similar to 166,000 km(2) Arsia Mons FSD using new, high-resolution image and topography data and describe numerous landforms indicative of volcano-ice interactions. These include (1) steep-sided mounds, morphologically similar to terrestrial tindar that form by subglacial eruptions under low confining pressure; (2) steep-sided, leveed flow-like landforms with depressed centers, interpreted to be subglacial lava flows with chilled margins; (3) digitate flows that we interpret as having resulted from lava flow interaction with glacial ice at the upslope margin of the glacier; (4) a plateau with the steep sides and smooth capping flow of a basaltic tuya, a class of feature formed when subglacial eruptions persist long enough to melt through the overlying ice; and (5) low, areally extensive mounds that we interpret as effusions of pillow lava, formed by subglacial eruptions under high confining pressure. Together, these eruptions involved hundreds of cubic kilometers of subglacially erupted lava; thermodynamic relationships indicate that this amount of lava would have produced a similar volume of subglacial liquid meltwater, some of which carved fluvial features in the FSD. Landforms in the FSD also suggest that glaciovolcanic heat transfer induced local wet-based flow in some parts of the glacier. Glaciovolcanic environments are important microbial habitats on Earth, and the evidence for widespread liquid water in the Amazonian-aged Arsia Mons FSD makes it one of the most recent potentially habitable environments on Mars. Such environments could have provided refugia for any life that developed on Mars and survived on its surface until the Amazonian.