, Volume 174, Issue 1-4, pp 49-111
Date: 30 Nov 2012

Long-Term Evolution of the Martian Crust-Mantle System

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Abstract

Lacking plate tectonics and crustal recycling, the long-term evolution of the crust-mantle system of Mars is driven by mantle convection, partial melting, and silicate differentiation. Volcanic landforms such as lava flows, shield volcanoes, volcanic cones, pyroclastic deposits, and dikes are observed on the martian surface, and while activity was widespread during the late Noachian and Hesperian, volcanism became more and more restricted to the Tharsis and Elysium provinces in the Amazonian period. Martian igneous rocks are predominantly basaltic in composition, and remote sensing data, in-situ data, and analysis of the SNC meteorites indicate that magma source regions were located at depths between 80 and 150 km, with degrees of partial melting ranging from 5 to 15 %. Furthermore, magma storage at depth appears to be of limited importance, and secular cooling rates of 30 to 40 K Gyr−1 were derived from surface chemistry for the Hesperian and Amazonian periods. These estimates are in general agreement with numerical models of the thermo-chemical evolution of Mars, which predict source region depths of 100 to 200 km, degrees of partial melting between 5 and 20 %, and secular cooling rates of 40 to 50 K Gyr−1. In addition, these model predictions largely agree with elastic lithosphere thickness estimates derived from gravity and topography data. Major unknowns related to the evolution of the crust-mantle system are the age of the shergottites, the planet’s initial bulk mantle water content, and its average crustal thickness. Analysis of the SNC meteorites, estimates of the elastic lithosphere thickness, as well as the fact that tidal dissipation takes place in the martian mantle indicate that rheologically significant amounts of water of a few tens of ppm are still present in the interior. However, the exact amount is controversial and estimates range from only a few to more than 200 ppm. Owing to the uncertain formation age of the shergottites it is unclear whether these water contents correspond to the ancient or present mantle. It therefore remains to be investigated whether petrologically significant amounts of water of more than 100 ppm are or have been present in the deep interior. Although models suggest that about 50 % of the incompatible species (H2O, K, Th, U) have been removed from the mantle, the amount of mantle differentiation remains uncertain because the average crustal thickness is merely constrained to within a factor of two.