Ambient effects on basalt and rhyolite lavas under Venusian, subaerial, and subaqueous conditions


  • Nathan T. Bridges


Both subaerial and subaqueous environments have been used as analog settings for Venus volcanism. To assess the merits of this, the effects of ambient conditions on the physical properties of lava on Venus, the seafloor, and land on Earth are evaluated. Rhyolites on Venus and on the surface of Earth solidify before basalts do because of their lower eruption temperatures. Rhyolite crust is thinner than basalt crust at times less than about an hour, especially on Venus. At later times, rhyolite crust is thicker because of its lower latent heat relative to basalt. The high pressure on the seafloor and Venus inhibits the exsolution of volatiles in lavas. Vesicularity and bulk density are proportional, so that lavas of the same composition should be more dense on the seafloor and less dense on land. Because viscosity depends partly upon the fraction of unvesiculated water in a melt, basalts with the same initial volatile abundance will be least viscous on the seafloor and most viscous on land. Assuming the same preemptive H2O contents, molten rhyolites on Venus will have viscosities ∼10% that of rhyolites on land. Despite lower expected viscosities, underwater flows are more buoyant and should have heights like subaerial and Venusian lavas of the same composition and extrusive history. In cases where the influence of crust is insignificant, a volume of rhyolite will have a higher aspect ratio than the same volume of basalt, no matter what the environment. If flow rheology is dominated by the presence of strong crust, aspect ratios differ little among environments or between compositions. These analyses support a rhyolitic interpretation for the composition of Venusian festooned flows and a basaltic interpretation for the composition of Venusian steep-sided domes. Although ambient effects are significant, extrusion rate and eruption history must also be considered to explain analogous volcanic landforms on Earth and Venus.