Paterae on Io: A new type of volcanic caldera?

Jani Radebaugh, Laszlo P. Keszthelyi, Alfred S. McEwen, Elizabeth P. Turtle, Windy Jaeger, Moses Milazzo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Paterae, defined by the International Astronomical Union as "irregular crater[s], or complex one[s] with scalloped edges," are some of the most prominent topographic features on Io. Paterae on Io are unique, yet in some aspects they resemble calderas known and studied on Earth, Mars, and Venus. They have steep walls, flat floors, and arcuate margins and sometimes exhibit nesting, all typical of terrestrial and Martian basalt shield calderas. However, they are much larger, many are irregular in shape, and they typically lack shields. Their great sizes (some >200 km diameter) and lack of associated volcanic edifices beg comparison with terrestrial ash flow calderas; however, there is no convincing evidence on Io for the high-silica erupted products or dome resurgence associated with this type of caldera. Ionian paterae seem to be linked with the eruption of large amounts of mafic to ultramafic lavas and colorful sulfur-rich materials that cover the floors and sometimes flow great distances away from patera margins. They are often angular in shape or are found adjacent to mountains or plateaus, indicating tectonic influences on their formation. A database of 417 paterae on Io measured from images with <3.2 km pixel-1 resolution (80% of its surface) reveals that their mean diameter of 41.0 km is close to that for calderas of Mars (47.7 km), is smaller than that for Venus (∼68 km), but dwarfs those for terrestrial basalt shield calderas (6.6 km) and ash flow calderas (18.7 km). Thirteen percent of all paterae are found adjacent to mountains, 42% have straight or irregular margins, and 8% are found atop low shields. Abundant, smaller paterae with more continuously active lava eruptions are found between 25° S and 25° N latitude, whereas fewer and larger paterae are found poleward of these latitudes. Patera distribution shows peaks at 330° W and 150° W longitude, likely related to the direction of greatest tidal massaging by Jupiter. Ionian patera formation may be explained by portions or combinations of models considered for formation of terrestrial calderas, yet their unusual characteristics may require new models with a greater role for tectonic processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2000JE001406
Pages (from-to)33005-33020
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Planets
Issue numberE12
StatePublished - Dec 25 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Oceanography


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