Publications by Colin Wilson

Explosive volcanic activity on Venus: The roles of volatile contribution, degassing, and external environment

Planetary and Space Science 113-114 (2015) 33-48

MW Airey, TA Mather, DM Pyle, LS Glaze, RC Ghail, CF Wilson

© 2015 The Authors. Abstract We investigate the conditions that will promote explosive volcanic activity on Venus. Conduit processes were simulated using a steady-state, isothermal, homogeneous flow model in tandem with a degassing model. The response of exit pressure, exit velocity, and degree of volatile exsolution was explored over a range of volatile concentrations (H<inf>2</inf>O and CO<inf>2</inf>), magma temperatures, vent altitudes, and conduit geometries relevant to the Venusian environment. We find that the addition of CO<inf>2</inf> to an H<inf>2</inf>O-driven eruption increases the final pressure, velocity, and volume fraction gas. Increasing vent elevation leads to a greater degree of magma fragmentation, due to the decrease in the final pressure at the vent, resulting in a greater likelihood of explosive activity. Increasing the magmatic temperature generates higher final pressures, greater velocities, and lower final volume fraction gas values with a correspondingly lower chance of explosive volcanism. Cross-sectionally smaller, and/or deeper, conduits were more conducive to explosive activity. Model runs show that for an explosive eruption to occur at Scathach Fluctus, at Venus' mean planetary radius (MPR), 4.5% H<inf>2</inf>O or 3% H<inf>2</inf>O with 3% CO<inf>2</inf> (from a 25 m radius conduit) would be required to initiate fragmentation; at Ma'at Mons (~9 km above MPR) only ~2% H<inf>2</inf>O is required. A buoyant plume model was used to investigate plume behaviour. It was found that it was not possible to achieve a buoyant column from a 25 m radius conduit at Scathach Fluctus, but a buoyant column reaching up to ~20 km above the vent could be generated at Ma'at Mons with an H<inf>2</inf>O concentration of 4.7% (at 1300 K) or a mixed volatile concentration of 3% H<inf>2</inf>O with 3% CO<inf>2</inf> (at 1200 K). We also estimate the flux of volcanic gases to the lower atmosphere of Venus, should explosive volcanism occur. Model results suggest explosive activity at Scathach Fluctus would result in an H<inf>2</inf>O flux of ~10<sup>7</sup> kg s<sup>-1</sup>. Were Scathach Fluctus emplaced in a single event, our model suggests that it may have been emplaced in a period of ~15 days, supplying 1-2×10<sup>4</sup> Mt H<inf>2</inf>O to the atmosphere locally. An eruption of this scale might increase local atmospheric H<inf>2</inf>O abundance by several ppm over an area large enough to be detectable by near-infrared nightside sounding using the 1.18 μm spectral window such as that carried out by the Venus Express/VIRTIS spectrometer. Further interrogation of the VIRTIS dataset is recommended to search for ongoing volcanism on Venus.

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