Small volcanic edifices and volcanism in the plains of Venus


  • John E. Guest,

  • Mark H. Bulmer,

  • Jayne Aubele,

  • Kathi Beratan,

  • Ronald Greeley,

  • James W. Head,

  • Gregory Michaels,

  • Catherine Weitz,

  • Charles Wiles


The most widespread terrain type on Venus consists of volcanic lowland plains. Several styles of volcanism are represented in the plains. The most extensive volcanic units consist of flood lavas, the largest of which have volumes of the order of thousands of cubic kilometers. As with terrestrial flood lavas, they are inferred to have erupted at high effusion rates. They show a range of radar backscatter characteristics indicating different surface textures and ages. Small edifices on the plains occur mainly in clusters associated with fracture belts. The majority are shield volcanoes that may be up to a few tens of kilometers across but are generally 10 km or less in diameter. Volcanic cones have the same size range. Volcanic domes have diameters up to several tens of kilometers and volumes of the order of 100 km3. These are interpreted as being constructed of lava erupted with a relatively high effective viscosity and thus possibly composed of more silicic lava. For many domes, the flanks were unstable during and afte eruption and suffered gravity sliding that produced steep, scalloped outer margins. Because of the high atmospheric pressures on Venus, explosive activity is less likely to occur than on Earth. However, n a few plains areas there is evidence of pyroclastic deposits surrounding craters, indicating that volatile contents in some of the magmas may be high in comparison to Earth. The clusters of small volcanic edifices are considered to be analogous to plains volcanism, similar to that of the Snake River Plain of Idaho. There may also be analogues with terrestrial volcanic clusters associated with mid-oceanic ridges.