Oscillatory Thermochemical Convection as a Cause for the Episodic Mare Basalt Volcanism in the PKT Region of the Moon

Friday, 19 December 2014
Chuan Qin and Shijie Zhong, University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder, CO, United States
The Moon possesses a number of hemispheric asymmetries including crustal thickness and mare basalt volcanism. Lunar mare volcanism, which lasted from about 4.0 to 1.5 Ga and occurred mostly on the nearside, is crucial in understanding the evolutionary history of the Moon. Recently, we analyzed the mare basalt age distribution for major mare basins, based on the latest mare basalt dating results from the crater size-frequency distribution measurements. Our analysis shows that most mare basalt eruptions are peaked at ~3.6 Ga and end at ~2.8 Ga, while mares Oceanus Procellarum, Imbrium, and Insularum in the Procelluram KREEP Terrane (PKT) feature episodic volcanism with reducing activities in the late stage. In this study, we propose that the episodic mare basalt volcanism is caused by oscillatory thermochemical convection, and has a strong correlation with the KREEP-enriched PKT. We formulate 3-D spherical thermochemical mantle convection models to investigate the genesis of episodic mare volcanism in one hemisphere, and the role of PKT in inducing and maintaining mare eruptions within its region. A MIC (mixture of ilmenite-rich cumulates and olivine-pyroxene) layer, which is rich in radiogenic elements and has a larger intrinsic density than the ambient mantle, is proposed to be the mare basalt source material. MIC is heated up due to radiogenic heating to become thermally buoyant and rise to the mare basalt source region, causing melting. When the heat is released to the extent that MIC becomes negatively buoyant, MIC sinks back to depth. Such a process may occur repetitively, causing episodic volcanism. On the other hand, the heating from KREEP materials in the PKT may maintain a high temperature anomaly in the nearside mantle that favors very long wavelength (i.e., degree 1) upwellings in the PKT region. This process may control the long-term evolution of the lunar interior and have implication for the present-day lunar mantle structure and dynamics.