Thermal and crustal evolution of Mars

Authors

  • Steven A. Hauck II,

    1. McDonnell Center for the Space Sciences and Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Washington University, Saint Louis, Missouri, USA
    2. Now at Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, Carnegie Institution of Washington, Washington, D. C., USA.
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  • Roger J. Phillips

    1. McDonnell Center for the Space Sciences and Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Washington University, Saint Louis, Missouri, USA
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Abstract

[1] We present a coupled thermal-magmatic model for the evolution of Mars' mantle and crust that may be consistent with estimates of the average crustal thickness and crustal growth rate. By coupling a simple parameterized model of mantle convection to a batch-melting model for peridotite, we can investigate potential conditions and evolutionary paths of the crust and mantle in a coupled thermal-magmatic system. On the basis of recent geophysical and geochemical studies, we constrain our models to have average crustal thicknesses between 50 and 100 km that were mostly formed by 4 Ga. Our nominal model is an attempt to satisfy these constraints with a relatively simple set of conditions. Key elements of this model are the inclusion of the energetics of melting, a wet (weak) mantle rheology, self-consistent fractionation of heat-producing elements to the crust, and a near-chondritic abundance of those elements. The latent heat of melting mantle material is a small (percent level) contributor to the total planetary energy budget over 4.5 Gyr but is crucial for constraining the thermal and magmatic history of Mars. Our nominal model predicts an average crustal thickness of ∼62 km that was 73% emplaced by 4 Ga. However, if Mars had a primary crust enriched in heat-producing elements, consistent with SNC meteorite geochemistry, then our models predict a considerably diminished amount of post 4 Ga crustal emplacement relative to the nominal model. The importance of a wet mantle in satisfying the basic constraints of Mars' thermal and crustal evolution suggests (independently from traditional geomorphology or meteorite geochemistry arguments) that early Mars had a wet environment. Extraction of water from the mantle of a one-plate planet such as Mars is found to be extremely inefficient, such that 90–95% of all water present in the mantle after the initial degassing event should still reside there currently. Yet extraction of even 5% of a modestly wet mantle (∼36 ppm water) would result in a significant amount (6.4 m equivalent global layer) of water available to influence the early surface and climate evolution of the planet.

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