Limited role for thermal erosion by turbulent lava in proximal Athabasca Valles, Mars

Vincenzo Cataldo, David Williams, Colin M. Dundas, Laszlo P. Keszthelyi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

8 Scopus citations


The Athabasca Valles flood lava is among the most recent (3 and average flow thicknesses of 20 and 30 m, the duration of the eruption varies between ∼11 and ∼37 days. The erosion of the lava flow substrate is investigated for three eruption temperatures (1270°C, 1260°C, and 1250°C), and volatile contents equivalent to 0-65 vol % bubbles. The largest erosion depths of ∼3.8-7.5 m are at the lava source, for 20 m thick and bubble-free flows that erupted at their liquidus temperature (1270°C). A substrate containing 25 vol % ice leads to maximum erosion. A lava temperature 20°C below liquidus reduces erosion depths by a factor of ∼2.2. If flow viscosity increases with increasing bubble content in the lava, the presence of 30-50 vol % bubbles leads to erosion depths lower than those relative to bubble-free lava by a factor of ∼2.4. The presence of 25 vol % ice in the substrate increases erosion depths by a factor of 1.3. Nevertheless, modeled erosion depths, consistent with the emplacement volume and flow duration constraints, are far less than the depth of the channel (∼35-100 m). We conclude that thermal erosion does not appear to have had a major role in excavating Athabasca Valles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1800-1819
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research E: Planets
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2015


  • Mars
  • physical volcanology
  • thermal erosion by lava

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Limited role for thermal erosion by turbulent lava in proximal Athabasca Valles, Mars'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this