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Effects of megascale eruptions on Earth and Mars

Thorvaldur Thordarson, Michael Rampino, Laszlo P. Keszthelyi and Stephen Self
Effects of megascale eruptions on Earth and Mars (in Preservation of random megascale events on Mars and Earth; influence on geologic history, Mary G. Chapman (editor) and Laszlo P. Keszthelyi (editor))
Special Paper - Geological Society of America (2009) 453: 37-53


Volcanic features are common on geologically active earthlike planets. Megascale or "super" eruptions involving >1000 Gt of magma have occurred on both Earth and Mars in the geologically recent past, introducing prodigious volumes of ash and volcanic gases into the atmosphere. Here we discuss felsic (explosive) and mafic (flood lava) supereruptions and their potential atmospheric and environmental effects on both planets. On Earth, felsic supereruptions recur on average about every 100-200,000 years and our present knowledge of the 73.5 ka Toba eruption implies that such events can have the potential to be catastrophic to human civilization. A future eruption of this type may require an unprecedented response from humankind to assure the continuation of civilization as we know it. Mafic supereruptions have resulted in atmospheric injection of volcanic gases (especially SO (sub 2) ) and may have played a part in punctuating the history of life on Earth. The contrast between the more sustained effects of flood basalt eruptions (decades to centuries) and the near-instantaneous effects of large impacts (months to years) is worthy of more detailed study than has been completed to date. Products of mafic supereruptions, significantly larger than known from the geologic record on Earth, are well preserved on Mars. The volatile emissions from these eruptions most likely had global dispersal, but the effects may not have been outside what Mars endures even in the absence of volcanic eruptions. This is testament to the extreme variability of the current Martian atmosphere: situations that would be considered catastrophic on Earth are the norm on Mars.

ISSN: 0072-1077
EISSN: 2331-219X
Serial Title: Special Paper - Geological Society of America
Serial Volume: 453
Title: Effects of megascale eruptions on Earth and Mars
Title: Preservation of random megascale events on Mars and Earth; influence on geologic history
Author(s): Thordarson, ThorvaldurRampino, MichaelKeszthelyi, Laszlo P.Self, Stephen
Author(s): Chapman, Mary G.editor
Author(s): Keszthelyi, Laszlo P.editor
Affiliation: University of Edinburgh, School of GeoSciences, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Affiliation: U. S. Geological Survey, Flagstaff, AZ, United States
Pages: 37-53
Published: 2009
Text Language: English
Publisher: Geological Society of America (GSA), Boulder, CO, United States
References: 166
Accession Number: 2009-074402
Categories: Extraterrestrial geologyQuaternary geology
Document Type: Serial
Bibliographic Level: Analytic
Illustration Description: illus. incl. 3 tables
N02°19'60" - N02°55'60", E98°30'00" - E99°09'00"
Secondary Affiliation: New York University, USA, United StatesU. S. Geological Survey, USA, United StatesOpen University, GBR, United Kingdom
Country of Publication: United States
Secondary Affiliation: GeoRef, Copyright 2017, American Geosciences Institute.
Update Code: 200940
Program Name: USGSOPNon-USGS publications with USGS authors
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