Master of Science
Planetary Science and Exploration
Volcanism has played a significant role throughout Mars’ geologic history. Extensive lava flows are widely spread across Mars’ equatorial region, shaping the surface in a very distinct way. In radar images (at the decimeter scale), these flows are bright, which is a typical characteristic of extremely rough, blocky lavas flows seen on Earth. Although the source of the extreme roughness of Martian lava flows is unknown, their surface roughness parameters can be constrained to 1) gain information about Mars’ interior processes, 2) find appropriate analogues on other planetary bodies, and 3) ideally infer the emplacement style of such lavas. Here, we utilized very detailed high-resolution images of Mars to measure the surface roughness parameters of Martian lava flows at a scale never before examined on the Martian surface (meter scale). Our results determined that at the meter scale, Martian lava flows are smoother than blocky flows seen on Earth, somewhat similar to pahoehoe and rubbly flows seen in Hawaii and Iceland (which are smoother at the decimeter scale), and similar to young lunar lava flows (also smoother at the decimeter scale). The differences observed in the surface roughness of Martian lava flows at the decimeter and meter scales compared to analogue lava flows on Earth and the Moon might be the result of: 1) the differences in the emplacement style of the lava flows, 2) the differences in post-emplacement modification processes on the surface of the lava flows, and/or 3) the limitations of the technique used to characterize the lava flows.
Summary for Lay Audience
Mars has been of particular interest to the planetary science community for decades as it is the only planetary body, besides Earth within the habitable zone of our Solar System. Evidence of flood lavas and massive volcanoes suggests that volcanism on Mars has played a significant role throughout its entire geologic history. Extensive lava flows are spread widely across Mars’ equatorial region, shaping the surface in a very distinct way. On radar images, these surfaces are observed to be extremely rough, which produce bright radar signal returns; a typical characteristic of extremely rough, blocky lavas flows seen on Earth. The source of such extreme roughness for Martian lava flows has not yet been identified. However, we can measure and constrain its roughness using high-resolution datasets of Mars that have been acquired over the years from different Mars spacecraft missions. These results will help us understand the emplacement style of Martian lava flows and will give us clues about the interior processes of the planet.
Rodriguez Sanchez-Vahamonde, Carolina, "Quantification of Surface Roughness of Lava Flows on Mars" (2019). Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. 6754.
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