New evidence for a magmatic influence on the origin of Valles Marineris, Mars

James M. Dohm, Jean Pierre Williams, Robert C. Anderson, Javier Ruiz, Patrick C. McGuire, Goro Komatsu, Alfonso F. Davila, Justin C. Ferris, Dirk Schulze-Makuch, Victor R. Baker, William V. Boynton, Alberto G. Fairén, Trent M. Hare, Hirdy Miyamoto, Kennth L. Tanaka, Shawn J. Wheelock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


In this paper, we show that the complex geological evolution of Valles Marineris, Mars, has been highly influenced by the manifestation of magmatism (e.g., possible plume activity). This is based on a diversity of evidence, reported here, for the central part, Melas Chasma, and nearby regions, including uplift, loss of huge volumes of material, flexure, volcanism, and possible hydrothermal and endogenic-induced outflow channel activity. Observations include: (1) the identification of a new > 50 km-diameter caldera/vent-like feature on the southwest flank of Melas, which is spatially associated with a previously identified center of tectonic activity using Viking data; (2) a prominent topographic rise at the central part of Valles Marineris, which includes Melas Chasma, interpreted to mark an uplift, consistent with faults that are radial and concentric about it; (3) HiRISE-identified landforms along the floor of the southeast part of Melas Chasma that are interpreted to reveal a volcanic field; (4) CRISM identification of sulfate-rich outcrops, which could be indicative of hydrothermal deposits; (5) GRS K/Th signature interpreted as water-magma interactions and/or variations in rock composition; and (6) geophysical evidence that may indicate partial compensation of the canyon and/or higher density intrusives beneath it. Long-term magma, tectonic, and water interactions (Late Noachian into the Amazonian), albeit intermittent, point to an elevated life potential, and thus Valles Marineris is considered a prime target for future life detection missions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12-27
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Aug 10 2009


  • Mars
  • Tharsis
  • Valles Marineris
  • canyon system
  • life
  • magma
  • plume
  • superplume
  • water

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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