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Density and lithospheric thickness of the Tharsis Province from MEX MaRS and MRO gravity data

Density and lithospheric thickness of the Tharsis Province from MEX MaRS and MRO gravity data

Publication date: 05 April 2012

Authors: Beuthe, M., et al.

Journal: Journal of Geophysical Research
Volume: 117
Page: E04002
Year: 2012

Copyright: 2012. American Geophysical Union.

Radio science tracking of Mars Express (MaRS experiment) and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter produced high resolution Martian gravity data. Applying localized spectral analysis on the new gravity data sets, we study the surface density and lithospheric elastic thickness in the Tharsis province. The gravity signal is predicted with geophysical models either including bottom loading (top/bottom model) or taking into account the loading history (top/top model). Volcanic shields are mainly composed of high-density lava but their construction could have begun with lower density lava, with the exception of Ascraeus Mons which has a top of lower density. Buoyant bottom loading may have been present in the form of a mantle plume under Olympus Mons. The elastic thickness was much larger at Olympus Mons than at other volcanoes, suggesting large spatial variations of heat flux during the Hesperian. Alternatively, small elastic thicknesses could be artifacts reflecting the presence of very localized high-density crustal intrusions beneath the volcanoes. Thaumasia highlands were probably supported by a mantle plume at the time of formation. In Valles Marineris, top/bottom models predict low densities and large elastic thicknesses, in conflict with the basaltic rock composition and Hesperian age of the valley. Dense mafic dikes underlie the western part of the valley. The top/top model serves to test another scenario in which the trough is formed with sedimentary infilling removed much later by erosion, the elastic thickness increasing in between. At the large volcanoes, the relation between gravity and topography is anisotropic probably because of density variations.

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