Rugged lava flows on the Moon revealed by Earth-based radar

Bruce A. Campbell, B. Ray Hawke, Lynn M. Carter, Rebecca R. Ghent, Donald B. Campbell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Basaltic volcanism is widespread on the lunar nearside, and returned samples suggest that the mare-forming magmas had low viscosity that led to primarily sheet-like deposits. New 70-cm wavelength radar observations that probe several meters beneath the lunar surface reveal differences in mare backscatter properties not explained by age or compositional variations. We interpret areas of high backscatter and high circular polarization ratio in Maria Serenitatis, Imbrium, and Crisium as having an enhanced abundance of decimeter-scale subsurface rocks relative to typical mare-forming flows. The 3.5 b.y survival of these differences implies an initial platy, blocky, or ridged lava flow surface layer with thickness of at least 3-5 m. Such rugged morphology might arise from episodic changes in magma effusion rate, as observed for disrupted flood basalt surfaces on the Earth and Mars, very high flow velocities, or increased viscosity due to a number of factors. Significant information on lunar mare eruption conditions may thus be obtained from long-wavelength radar probing of the shallow subsurface.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberL22201
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number22
StatePublished - Nov 2009
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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