Sedimentary Processes on Venus

Lynn M. Carter, Martha S. Gilmore, Richard C. Ghail, Paul K. Byrne, Suzanne E. Smrekar, Terra M. Ganey, Noam Izenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The sedimentary cycle, including the processes of erosion, transport, and lithification, is a key part of how planets evolve over time. Early images of Venus’s vast volcanic plains, numerous volcanoes, and rugged tectonic regions led to the interpretation that Venus is a volcanic planet with little sediment cover and perhaps few processes for generating sedimentary rocks. However, in the years since the Magellan mission in the 1990s we have developed a better understanding of sedimentary process on Venus. Impact craters are the largest present-day source of sediments, with estimates from the current crater population suggesting an average sediment layer 8–63 cm in thickness if distributed globally. There is clear evidence of fine-grained material in volcanic summit regions that is likely produced through volcanism, and dune fields and yardangs indicate transport of sediments and erosion of rocks through wind. Landslides and fine-grained materials in highland tessera regions demonstrate erosive processes that move sediment downhill. It is clear that sediments are an important part of Venus’s geology, and it is especially important to realize that they mantle features that may be of interest to future landed or low-altitude imaging missions. The sinks of sediments are less well known, as it has been difficult to identify sedimentary rocks with current data. Layering observed in Venera images and in Magellan images of some tessera regions, as well as calculated rock densities, suggest that sedimentary rocks are present on Venus. New data is needed to fully understand and quantify the present-day sedimentary cycle and establish with certainty whether sedimentary rock packages do, in fact, exist on Venus. These data sets will need to include higher-resolution optical and radar imaging, experimental and geochemical measurements to determine how chemical weathering and lithification can occur, and topography to better model mesospheric winds. Sediments and sedimentary rocks are critical to understanding how Venus works today, but are also extremely important for determining how Venus’s climate has changed through time and whether it was once a habitable planet.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number85
JournalSpace Science Reviews
Issue number8
StatePublished - Dec 2023


  • Aeolian
  • Regolith
  • Sedimentology
  • Sediments
  • Venus
  • Volcanism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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