A volcanic inventory of the Moon

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The volcanic and magmatic activity of the Moon is intimately tied to its internal thermal and geodynamic evolution through time. While the extrusive nearside maria dominate the volcanic record, little is known regarding their underlying structure and the details of their emplacement. Intrusive activity is even more enigmatic, with most intrusions expressing little to no surface signature. Although prior studies have provided insights into the local igneous activity, no global compilation has been conducted. Here, we present a volumetric inventory of extrusive and intrusive activity. Gravity and topography data are inverted using a two-layer loading model to constrain mare and cryptomare thickness. The mean thickness of mare units is found to be 2.8 km, though with substantial lateral variations, with average values of 7.9 km within large mare basins compared to 1.6 km outside of these basins. This substantial variation in mare thickness associated with minimal change in the surface topography may be explained by some combination of long-distance transport of low viscosity mare and/or a buoyancy control limiting mare eruptions to a constant level surface. Our preferred volumes of mare and cryptomare are 18.2×106 km3 and 2.2×106 km3, respectively. Crustal intrusions associated with linear gravity anomalies, floor-fractured craters, ring dikes, graben, and beneath volcanic constructs, are investigated and yield a total volume of 9.1×106 km3. Our inventory reveals that intrusive activity dominates in the farside (intrusive:extrusive ratio of 5:2), whereas extrusive volcanism is more pronounced in the nearside (1:5). The combined volume of intrusives and extrusives is found to be 3 times greater in the nearside than in the farside. Both are related to the lunar asymmetry in which the thinner crust and warmer subsurface beneath the Procellarum KREEP terrane enables enhanced melting and magma ascent. These observations may have implications for the interpretation of the thermal and geodynamic history of other celestial bodies, where intrusive volcanism remains poorly constrained.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number115954
StatePublished - Mar 15 2024


  • Geophysics
  • Magmatism
  • Moon
  • Thermal evolution
  • Volcanism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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