Is Kasei Valles (Mars) the largest volcanic channel in the solar system?

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Abstract

With a length of more than 2000 km and widths of up to several hundred kilometers, Kasei Valles is the largest outflow system on Mars. Superficially, the scabland-like character of Kasei Valles is evocative of terrestrial systems carved by catastrophic aqueous floods, and the system is widely interpreted as a product of outbursts from aquifers. However, as at other Martian outflow channels, clear examples of fluvial sedimentary deposits have proven difficult to identify here. Though Kasei Valles lacks several key properties expected of aqueous systems, its basic morphological and contextual properties are aligned with those of ancient volcanic channels on Venus, the Moon, Mercury, and Earth. There is abundant evidence that voluminous effusions of low-viscosity magmas occurred at the head of Kasei Valles, the channel system acted as a conduit for associated flows, and mare-style volcanic plains developed within its terminal basin. Combined mechanical and thermal incision rates of at least several meters per day are estimated to have been readily achieved at Kasei Valles by 20-m-deep magmas flowing with viscosities of 1 Pa s across low topographic slopes underlain by bedrock. If Kasei Valles formed through incision by magma, it would be the largest known volcanic channel in the solar system. The total volume of magma erupted at Kasei Valles is estimated here to have possibly reached or exceeded ∼5 × 106 km3, a volume comparable in magnitude to those that characterize individual Large Igneous Provinces on Earth. Development of other large outflow systems on Mars is expected to have similarly involved eruption of up to millions of cubic kilometers of magma.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-57
Number of pages21
JournalIcarus
Volume301
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2018

Keywords

  • Interior
  • Mars
  • Mars
  • Surface
  • Volcanism

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