Icelandic analogs to Martian flood lavas

Keszthelyi, Laszlo; Thordarson, Thorvaldur; McEwen, Alfred; Haack, Henning; Guilbaud, Marie-Noelle; Self, Stephen and Rossi, Matti J. (2004). Icelandic analogs to Martian flood lavas. Geochemistry Geophysics Geosystems, 5(11) Q11014.



We report on new field observations from Icelandic lava flows that have the same surface morphology as many Martian flood lava flows. The Martian flood lavas are characterized by a platy-ridged surface morphology whose formation is not well understood. The examples on Mars include some of the most pristine lava on the planet and flows >1500 km long. The surfaces of the flows are characterized by (1) ridges tens of meters tall and wide and hundreds of meters long, (2) plates hundreds of meters to kilometers across that are bounded by ridges, (3) smooth surfaces broken into polygons several meters across and bowed up slightly in the center, (4) parallel grooves 1–10 km long cut into the flow surface by flow past obstacles, and (5) inflated pahoehoe margins. The Icelandic examples we examined (the 1783–1784 Laki Flow Field, the Búrfells Lava Flow Field by Lake Myvatn, and a lava flow from Krafla Volcano) have all these surface characteristics. When examined in detail, we find that the surfaces of the Icelandic examples are composed primarily of disrupted pahoehoe. In some cases the breccia consists of simple slabs of pahoehoe lava; in other cases it is a thick layer dominated by contorted fragments of pahoehoe lobes. Our field observations lead us to conclude that these breccias are formed by the disruption of an initial pahoehoe surface by a large flux of liquid lava within the flow. In the case of Laki, the lava flux was provided by surges in the erupted effusion rate. At Búrfells it appears that the rapid flow came from the sudden breaching of the margins of a large ponded lava flow. Using the observations from Iceland, we have improved our earlier thermal modeling of the Martian flood lavas. We now conclude that these platy-ridged lava flows may have been quite thermally efficient, allowing the flow to extend for >100 km under a disrupted crust that was carried on top of the flow.

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