Ancient volcanism and its implication for thermal evolution of Mars

Abstract:Volcanism plays an important role in the formation and thermal evolution of the crusts of all terrestrial planets. Martian volcanoes have been extensively studied, and it has been suggested that the volcanism on Mars that created the visible volcanic features was initiated in the Noachian (> 3.8 Ga) and continued to the Late Amazonian (< 0.1 Ga). However, styles of ancient volcanism, their links with the earliest volcanic constructions, and the thermal evolution of the planet are still not well understood. Here we show that numerous Early Noachian (> 4.0 Ga) volcanoes are preserved in the heavily cratered southern highlands. Most of these are central volcanoes with diameters ranging from 50 to 100 km and heights of 2–3 km. Most of them are spatially adjacent to and temporally continuous with the Tharsis and circum-Hellas volcanic provinces, suggesting that these two volcanic provinces have experienced more extensive and longer duration volcanism than previously thought. These edifices are heavily cut by radial channels, suggesting that an early phase of aqueous erosion occurred and ended prior to the emplacement of the encircling Hesperian lava fields.