Volcanism and volatile recycling on a one-plate planet: Applications to Venus

L. T. Elkins-Tanton, S. E. Smrekar, P. C. Hess, E. M. Parmentier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


The surface of Venus displays volcanic features indicating eruption of lavas with a wide range of viscosities. We present numerical experiments showing that lithospheric gravitational instabilities can produce lavas with compositions consistent with the range of volcanic forms seen on Venus. The presence of incompatible elements and their oxides (specifically, water, carbon dioxide, and alkali elements) in trace- to percent-level concentrations in the Venusian mantle allows the formation of a variety of magmatic source regions. The pressure and temperature paths that the dense lithospheric materials travel as they sink into the Venusian mantle indicate that the lithospheric material may devolatilize as it sinks, enriching the surrounding upper mantle, or it may itself melt. These processes can produce magmas with a variety of compositions and viscosities, potentially consistent with the range of Venusian volcanic forms. These processes also suggest that Venus may recycle incompatible elements internally. Indeed, if Venus began with an internal volatile content, then no amount of partial melting can make it entirely volatile-free even in the absence of recycling into the interior. These models therefore suggest geodynamic processes that can produce a range of magmatic activity and retain some interior volatiles on a one-plate planet.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberE04S06
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Planets
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 20 2007
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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