The Early Evolution of Mars’ Crust

Friday, 19 December 2014
Henri Samuel, IRAP, Toulouse, France, David Baratoux, Observatory Midi-Pyrenees, Toulouse, France and Kei Kurita, University of Tokyo, Bunkyo-ku, Japan
The Mars crustal density and thickness have been recently re-evaluated using petrological constraints from remote sensing, in-situ data, and SNC meteorites. This work indicates that the present-day Martian crust is denser and thicker than previously proposed if essentially basaltic in composition. As a consequence, the average crustal thickness would be commensurable with the depth of the basalt/eclogite transition, re-opening the question of crustal recycling on Early Mars and more generally throughout all its history. We have therefore investigated the conditions under which a thick ancient crust with an eclogitic root could survive through the history of Mars using numerical modelling. Delamination may occur if the combination of poorly constrained physical parameters induces the presence of gravitationally unstable layers and favors a rheological decoupling. To study the conditions and the time scales for the occurrence of crustal delamination on Mars, we investigated the influence of critical parameters for a plausible range of values corresponding to the Martian mantle. For each case we follow the dynamic evolution over geological times of a three-layer system (i.e., crust-mantle with a distinction between low pressure, buoyant basaltic crust and higher pressure, denser eclogitic material). We systematically varied four governing parameters within plausible ranges: (1) the basalt-eclogite transition depth, (2) the density difference between the mantle and the basaltic crust, (3) the density difference between the eclogitic crust and the lithosphere & mantle, (4) the viscous rheology. These experiments allow determining the average Martian crustal thickness at early and late evolutionary stages.