Degassing of volcanic extrusives on Mercury:Potential contributions to transient atmospheres and buried polar deposits

Deutsch, A.N. and Head, J.W. and Parman, S.W. and Wilson, L. and Neumann, G.A. and Lowden, F. (2021) Degassing of volcanic extrusives on Mercury:Potential contributions to transient atmospheres and buried polar deposits. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 564. ISSN 0012-821X

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The surface of Mercury is dominated by extensive, widespread lava plains that formed early in its history. The emplacement of these lavas was accompanied by the release of magmatic volatiles, the bulk of which were lost to space via thermal escape and/or photodissociation. Here we consider the fate of these erupted volatiles by quantifying the volumes of erupted volcanic plains and estimating the associated masses of erupted volatiles. The concentrations and speciation of volatiles in Mercury's magmas are not known with certainty at this time, so we model a wide range of cases, based on existing experimental data and speciation models, at 3–7 log fO2 units below conditions determined by the iron-wüstite buffer. Cases range from relatively low gas content scenarios (total exsolved gas mass of 9×1015 kg) to high gas content scenarios (total exsolved gas = 5 × 1019 kg). We estimate that the average duration of a transient volcanic atmosphere resulting from a single eruption would be between ∼250 and ∼210,000 years, depending on the volume, degassed volatile content, and eruption rate of an individual eruption, as well as the fO2 conditions of the planet's interior. If a dense transient atmosphere was ever surface-bound long enough for the released volatiles to be transported to and cold-trapped at Mercury's polar regions, those trapped volatiles are predicted to be well-mixed with the regolith, and at least 16 m beneath the surface given regolith gardening rates. These volatiles would have a composition and age distinctly different from those of the H2O-ice deposits observed at the poles of Mercury today. © 2021 Elsevier B.V.

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Journal Article
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Earth and Planetary Science Letters
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This is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Earth and Planetary Science Letters. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 564, 2021 DOI: 10.1016/j.epsl.2021.116907
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13 Apr 2021 10:05
Last Modified:
18 Sep 2023 01:54