Introduction: volcano–ice interaction on Earth and Mars
Published:January 01, 2002
The theme of this volume was conceived during discussions between the editors and many colleagues, particularly Ian Skilling, Magnus Gudmundsson, Virginia Gulick and Sveinn Jacobsson, in response to a burgeoning growth of interest in volcano–ice systems by geologists working on terrestrial and putative martian examples. Both communities of geologists have been travelling essentially parallel paths in pursuit of their science, but using very different tools: principally remote sensing (satellite data) for Mars; mainly outcrop geology for Earth studies. At present, there are no publications that span the divide that artificially exists between the terrestrial and martian investigations, and, thus, the concept for this volume was borne. Isolated papers have addressed volcano–ice topics but this is the first attempt to assemble a thematic group of contributions addressing the diverse range of interactions known or thought to occur on both planets.
The broad focus of this volume is the interaction between magmas and cryospheres, whether on Earth or Mars. On Earth, snow and ice are found in extensive polar ice caps and on the summits of mountains even down to tropical latitudes, and ice sheets were much more widespread in the geological past. The exploration of Mars, by satellite and instrumental lander, has also revealed abundant examples of water and ice: in polar ice caps today and formerly elsewhere on the surface, in the crust and in the megaregolith, and the planet may even have sustained frozen oceans early in its history. Very different eruptive environments are implied, however, with Mars experiencing
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Volcano–Ice Interaction on Earth and Mars
This volume focuses on magmas and cryospheres on Earth and Mars and is the first publication of its kind to combine a thematic set of contributions addressing the diverse range of volcano-ice interactions known or thought to occur on both planets. Understanding those interactions is a comparatively young scientific endeavour, yet it is vitally important for a fuller comprehension of how planets work as integrated systems. It is also topical since future volcanic eruptions on Earth may contribute to melting ice sheets and thus to global sea level rise.
Papers included here are likely to influence the choice of sites for future Mars missions in exobiologically important areas. On Earth, snow and ice are widespread, not only in extensive icecaps but also as alpine glaciers at high elevations in tropical regions. By contrast, Mars today is an arid volcanic planet with only small polar ice-caps although an abundance of water is believed to be trapped in the cryolithosphere. It is also thought that the planet may have sustained extensive frozen oceans early in its history. The presence of a former hydrosphere, a cryosphere and coincident volcanism thus make Mars the likeliest prospect for the first discoveries of life away from Earth. Much research has assumed that terrestrial volcano-ice systems are plausible analogues for putative Martian examples, but until mankind finally sets foot on Mars, there is no simple test for that assumption.
Our hope is that the knowledge presented here will stimulate research among planetary geologists in this exciting, rapidly expanding field for many years to come.