A NASA study finds that supervolcanoes may have altered Venus’ ancient climate


A NASA study finds that supervolcanoes may have altered Venus' ancient climate

Maat Mons is viewed in this 3D computer-generated perspective of the surface of Venus. The viewpoint is located 634 kilometers (393 miles) north of Maat Mons at an elevation of 3 kilometers (2 miles) above the terrain. Lava flows stretch for hundreds of kilometers across the rift plains shown in the foreground, to the base of Maat Mons. Synthetic aperture radar data from NASA’s Magellan mission are combined with radar altimetry to develop a 3D map of the surface. The vertical scale in this perspective has been magnified 10 times. Credit: NASA/JPL

The NASA paper suggests that hundreds to thousands of centuries of volcanic activity and the eruption of vast amounts of material may have helped transform Venus from a temperate, wet world into the acidic hothouse it is today.


The paper also discusses these “great fire interruptions” in Earth’s history that caused many mass extinctions on our planet millions of years ago.

“By understanding the record of large igneous outbursts on Earth and Venus, we can determine whether these events caused Venus’s current state,” said Dr. Michael J.Y., of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York. Way is the lead author on the paper, which was published April 22 in Planetary Science Journal.

Large igneous provinces are the product of periods of large-scale volcanism that lasted tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of years. They can deposit more than 100,000 cubic miles of igneous rock on the surface. At the high end, this molten rock could be enough to bury the entire state of Texas half a mile deep.

Venus today has an average surface temperature of about 864 Fahrenheit, and an atmosphere 90 times the pressure of Earth’s surface. According to the study, these massive volcanic flows may have triggered these conditions sometime in Venus’ ancient history. In particular, the occurrence of several volcanic eruptions in a short period of geological time (within a million years) would have triggered a runaway greenhouse effect that triggered the planet’s transformation from wet and temperate to hot and dry.

Large fields of solid igneous rock cover 80% of the surface of Venus in all, Way said. “While we’re not yet sure how many times the events that created these fields occurred, we should be able to narrow it down by studying Earth’s history.”

Life on Earth has experienced at least five major mass extinction events since the origin of multicellular life about 540 million years ago, each wiping out more than 50% of its population. animal life across the planet. According to this study and others before it, the majority of these extinction events were caused or exacerbated by the types of explosions that produce large igneous interruptions. In the case of Earth, the climatic disturbances resulting from these events were not sufficient to cause the Earth’s climate runaway greenhouse effect They were also on Venus for reasons that Wei and other scientists are still working to determine.

Upcoming NASA missions to Venus, scheduled for launch in late 2020—the Venus Deep Atmosphere Exploration in Noble Gases, Chemistry, and Imaging (DAVINCI) mission and the Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography, and Spectroscopy (VERITAS) mission—aimed to study the origin of Venus Its history and current condition are described in unprecedented detail.

“DAVINCI’s primary goal is to narrow down the history of water on Venus and when it may have disappeared, providing more information about how the climate of Venus has changed over time,” Way said.

The DAVINCI mission will be preceded by VERITAS, an orbiter designed to explore the surface and interior of Venus from above, to better understand its volcanic and volatile history, and thus the trajectory of Venus to its current state. Data from both missions can help scientists narrow down the exact record of how Venus transitions from wet and temperate to dry and scorching. It may also help us better understand how volcanoes here on Earth influenced life in the past, and how they might continue to do so in the future.

more information:
MJ Way et al, Large-scale volcanism and heat death of terrestrial worlds, Planetary Science Journal (2022). DOI: 10.3847/PSJ/ac6033

the quote: Supervolcanoes May Have Altered Ancient Venus Climate, NASA Study Finds (2022, November 18) Retrieved November 18, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-11-massive-volcanism-ancient-venus-climate. html

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