Encyclopedia of Planetary Landforms

2015 Edition
| Editors: Henrik Hargitai, Ákos Kereszturi

Small Volcano (Venus)

  • Henrik Hargitai
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-3134-3_353


Volcano of less than 20 km in diameter on Venus (Head et al. 1992).


Typically shield-shaped, radar-smooth or rough, 0.5–20 km diameter quasi-circular to circular edifices with or without a summit pit (e.g., Hansen 2005).


Small volcanoes studied by Kreslavsky and Head (1999) are 1–19 km high (average, 3–5 km) and 24–1,242 m high (average, 110–200 m).


The topographic classes of small volcanic edifices are (Aubele 1993; Guest et al. 1992): (1) shield shaped (most common) ( shield volcanoes); (2) domical shaped ( dome); (3) cone shaped ( volcanic cones), and (4) flat topped (mesa).


Effusive shield volcanoes (Aubele and Slyuta 1990): “the surface manifestation of low-volume eruptions of magma from shallow reservoirs and dike-like bodies” (Ivanov and Head 2004).


Small volcanoes occur in a variety of geologic and stratigraphic settings on Venus.

In the equilibrium (nondirectional) resurfacing model, small volcanoes represent a global process occurring locally throughout the recent history of Venus (e.g., Addington 2001).

In the directional volcanic evolution model (Basilevsky and Head 1998; Kreslavsky and Head 1999; and Ivanov and Head 2004), small volcanoes occur in a unit in unusual abundance, below the regional plains unit. Emplacement of  shield plains represents a period of preferential formation of small edifices. Following this period, volcanic style changed and lava from few sources ( wrinkle-ridge plains) flooded and embayed shield plains. Small volcanoes postdating regional plains are associated with large young volcanic centers and exclusively occur in the Beta-Atla-Themis (BAT) region (Ivanov and Head 2004).


Small volcanoes are scattered on  shield plains and  wrinkle-ridge plains (Fig. 1) and are concentrated in  shield fields (Ivanov and Head 2011). Based on low-resolution Venera 15/16 data, it has been estimated that there are on the order of four million small volcanoes on Venus (Aubele and Slyuta 1990). Magellan images are estimated to contain 1 million <15 km volcanoes (Burl et al. 1993).
Small Volcano (Venus), Fig. 1

Small volcanoes 42°N, 314°E (Guinevere Planitia). Small volcanoes are scattered in  shield plains unit (radar-bright unit at the bottom and within radar-dark unit) and in  wrinkle-ridge plains (regional plains) unit (radar-dark unit and radar-bright unit on top) where shields are proposed to be exposures ( Kipuka) embayed by the plains material (Kreslavsky and Head 1999). Magellan left-look radar (NASA/JPL)


Small volcano distribution and morphometry can be used to assess stratigraphic relationships (Basilevsky and Head 1998) and thickness (Kreslavsky and Head 1999) of volcanic plains units. Deposits of small volcanoes play a major role in lowland resurfacing (Hansen 2005).

Terrestrial Analog

Global abundance, distribution, and size range are similar to those of terrestrial  seamounts (Aubele and Slyuta 1990).

Planetary Analogs

History of Investigation

Discovered in Venera 15/16 radar images, initially called “small domes” (Barsukov et al. 1984) following lunar nomenclature and were thought to be similar to volcanic domes and cinder cones on Earth and Mars. The category included features <15 km (Barsukov et al. 1986; Slyuta et al. 1988). The specific size divisions of Venusian volcanoes are in part arbitrary defined, but also derive from the cumulative size-frequency distribution (Crumpler et al. 1997). The need for cataloging the very large number of small volcanoes on Venus initiated the development of automated learning-based pattern recognition systems (Burl et al. 1993, 1998; Wiles and Forshaw 1992).

See Also


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  3. Aubele JC, Slyuta EN (1990) Small domes on Venus: characteristics and origins. Earth Moon Planet 50(51):493–532CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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  17. Wiles CR, Forshaw MRB (1992) Automated detection and measurements of small Volcanoes on Venus. Lunar Planet Sci Conf XXIII:1527–1528, HoustonGoogle Scholar

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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.NASA Ames Research Center/NPPMoffett FieldUSA