Carbonate-Sulfate Volcanism on Venus?


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Venusian canali, outflow channels, and associated volcanic deposits resemble fluvial landforms more than they resemble volcanic features on Earth and Mars. Some canali have meandering habits and features indicative of channel migration that are very similar to meandering river channels and flood plains on Earth, venusian outflow channels closely resemble water-carved outflow channels on Mars and the Channeled Scabland in Washington, collapsed terrains at the sources of some venusian channels resemble chaotic terrains at the sources of martian outflow channels, venusian lava deltas are similar to bird's-foot deltas such as the Mississippi delta, and venusian valley networks indicate sapping. The depositional fluvial-type features (deltas, braided bars, and channeled plains) are generally among the smoothest terrains at the Magellan radar wavelength (12.6 cm) on Venus. These features suggest the involvement of an unusual lava, unexpected processes, and/or extraordinary eruption conditions. Possibly the lava was an ordinary silicate lava such as basalt or a less common type of silicate lava, and conditions unique to Venus or to those particular eruptions may have caused an unusual volcanological behavior. We have developed the alternative possibility that the lava had a water-like rheology and a melting point slightly greater than Venus' surface temperature, thus accounting for the unusual behavior of the lava. Unlike silicate lavas, some carbonatites (including carbonate-sulfate-rich liquids) have these properties; thus they can flow great distances while retaining a high fluidity, significant mechanical erosiveness, and substantial capacity to transport and deposit sediment. Venusian geochemistry and petrology are consistent with extensive eruptions of carbonatite lavas, which could have crustal and/or mantle origins. Venus' atmosphere (especially CO2, HCl, and HF abundances) and rocks may be in local chemical equilibrium, which suggests that the upper crust contains large amounts of calcite, anhydrite, and other salts. Chemical analyses indicate, according to some models, that Venusian rocks may contain 4-19% calcite and anhydrite. Mixtures of crustal salts could melt at temperatures a few tens to a few hundred Kelvins higher than Venus' surface temperature; hence, melting may be induced by modest endogenetic or impact heating. Salts may have many of the same geologic roles on Venus as water and ice have on Mars. A molten salt (carbonatite) "aquifer" may exist beneath a few hundred meters to several kilometers of solidified salt-rich "permafrost." Many geologic features can be explained by carbonatite magmatism: (1) impact melting of crustal salts can explain crater outflows, (2) small, sustained eruptions from molten salt aquifers can explain sapping valleys, (3) large, sustained eruptions may explain canali and their flood plans, and (4) catastrophic outbursts may have formed outflow channels and chaotic terrain. Landforms created by carbonate-rich lavas would be thermally stable on Venus' surface, though some minerals may weather to other solid substances. ?? 1994 Academic Press. All rights reserved.

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