Comparison of flood lavas on Earth and Mars

By:  and 
Edited by: Mary G. Chapman



Flood lavas, by definition, cover vast areas in great sheets of lava, without the construction of major edifices (e.g., Geikie, 1880; Washington, 1922; Tyrrell, 1937; Self et al., 1997). The flat terrain that flood lavas produce has led to the term “plateau volcanism” to be used as a synonym for flood volcanism. In addition, the classic erosion pattern of flood lavas leaves a series of topographic steps. Thus many flood basalt provinces are known as “traps” from the Scandinavian word for steps. Plateau volcanism transitions to “plains” volcanism when low shields become common (Greeley and King, 1977). It is not surprising that these large-volume eruptions are usually composed of the most common of volcanic rocks: basalt. Thus, the term “flood basalt” is often used interchangeably with “flood volcanism.” However, there can be interesting and significant compositional variability within flood “basalt” provinces. The most general term to describe all large-volume volcanism is “Large Igneous Province” (LIP) (e.g., Coffin and Eldholm, 1994).

LIPs represent a major geologic event with significant repercussions on the interior of a planetary body. The extraction of such large volumes of magma can alter the thermal state of the mantle, indicate major changes in the convection patterns within the mantle, and lead to geochemical evolution of the mantle on a regional scale (e.g., Coffin and Eldholm, 1994 and references therein). Flood lavas also alter the face of a planet for geologically significant time.

Publication type Book chapter
Publication Subtype Book Chapter
Title Comparison of flood lavas on Earth and Mars
Chapter 5
ISBN 9780511536014
DOI 10.1017/CBO9780511536014.006
Year Published 2007
Language English
Publisher Cambridge University Press
Contributing office(s) Astrogeology Science Center
Description 25 p.
Larger Work Type Book
Larger Work Subtype Monograph
Larger Work Title The geology of Mars: Evidence from Earth-based analogs
First page 126
Last page 150
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