Thermal Evolution of Terrestrial Planets: Earth, Mars, Size, Temperature, Tectonics, and Deep Volatile Cycling

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Adrian Lenardic1, Jennifer Hero1 and Patrick Joseph McGovern Jr2, (1)Rice University, Earth Science, Houston, TX, United States, (2)USRA, Houston, TX, United States
Recent efforts to constrain the thermal evolution of the Martian lithosphere suggest that the ratio of mantle heat production to heat loss, termed the Urey ratio, on Mars may be greater than unity at present (or in Mars' recent past). For comparison, the present day Earth value is 0.33. These estimates fly in the face of conventional wisdom that a smaller planet like Mars should have cooled faster than the Earth - and certainly should not be heating up at present. We perform a sensitivity analysis, using a thermal history modeling approach, to asses the relative effects of changing planetary size, mode of tectonics, and nature of deep volatile cycling (focussing on water). Our results indicate that differences in the nature of volatile cycling (degassing vs regassing over time) can outweigh the effects of size and tectonic mode in determining the thermal state of a planet. Mars models in which degassing dominates can give Urey ratios that exceed unity. Earth models in which regassing dominates over degassing in the later geologic stages of evolution lead to lower Urey ratio values.