Was Venus once warm and wet? New study of lava flow suggests not

Was Venus once warm and wet? New study of lava flow suggests not
Magellan Radar mosaic of Venus; the Ovda Fluctus lava flow at the arrow’s point. Credit: NASA

A new study of the Ovda Fluctus lava flow on Venus indicates that it is made of basaltic lava. This discovery weakens the notion that Venus might once have been Earth-like with an ancient ocean of liquid water.

Previous studies suggested that early Venus was once warm and wet based on the chemistry of its atmosphere and the presence of . These highlands were thought to be formed of granitic rock, like Earth's continents, which required oceans of to form.

Scientists at the Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI), including undergraduate student intern Frank Wroblewski from Northland College, find that a volcanic flow on Venus' Ovda Regio highlands plateau is composed of basaltic lava, calling into question the idea that the planet might once have been Earth-like with an ancient ocean of liquid water.

The LPI team re-mapped the Ovda Fluctus flow using radar data. They discovered that the flow is not granitic as was expected from its location, but is more likely made up of basalt rock which can form with or without water. The result has potentially significant implications for the evolutionary history of Venus. The new map and results are published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets.

"We know so little about Venus' surface," says team member Dr. Allan Treiman, a Universities Space Research Association (USRA) scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI). "If the Ovda Regio highlands are made of basaltic rock as is most of Venus, they were likely squeezed up to their current heights by internal forces, possibly like mountains which result from plate tectonics on Earth."

Was Venus once warm and wet? New study of lava flow suggests not
Close-up of the lava flow – dark line shows its margin. Credit: NASA

Explore further

Why we need to get back to Venus

More information: Frank B. Wroblewski et al. Ovda Fluctus, the Festoon Lava Flow on Ovda Regio, Venus: Not Silica‐Rich, Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets (2019). DOI: 10.1029/2019JE006039
Provided by USRA
Citation: Was Venus once warm and wet? New study of lava flow suggests not (2019, October 7) retrieved 20 October 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-10-venus-lava.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
193 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

Oct 07, 2019
The thing about granite is that it practically *requires* water in order to form. Water lowers the temperature required for basaltic magma to form (similar to the way that salt lowers the temperature at which liquid water can exist) but it doesn't do it evenly across the components of basaltic magma. The parts that are rich in silica melt more easily while the parts that are rich in iron and magnesium stay solid or reform more quickly. This leaves the magma silica-rich; i.e., granitic.

The other thing about granite is that is is less dense than basalt, thanks to all those heavy elements being left behind. That's why continents are higher than ocean basins; continents are made up of granite and ocean basins are made up of basalt.

That's why this is so important. If the magma on the highlands isn't granitic, then the highlands are probably basalt which means that there probably wasn't ever a lot of water on Venus.

Oct 07, 2019
Why the heck should we anticipate that a planet so close to the sun should have held liquid water oceans?

Oct 07, 2019
Why the heck should we anticipate that a planet so close to the sun should have held liquid water oceans?


Because the Sun would have only had ~ 70% of its current luminosity when Venus formed. And Venus would not have been born with its current CO2 thick atmosphere.

Oct 07, 2019
this articles conjectures may add further evidence to the hypothesis,
that the speculated Thera - Earth Collision?

a lot of mass collected in orbit around the Hadean Earth to form into the proto-Luna

a lot of the mass was was caught in a ballistic orbit
to eventually get dragged down the early Earth's gravity well
to impact the surface

a lot of the debris was flung into random directions
a few megatonnage of that rocky-road,
as is normal for crap flung around the Inner System,
got pulled further inward by our Sun's gravity
to intersected the early Venus

& pretty well beat the crap out of the still forming planetoid

crippling it's potential right from a very early age
possible water was boiled off
& the chemical bonds broken
resulting in the present crushing acidic atmosphere
while the hydrogen was lost to space

why?
why? you ask?
did the Earth prosper?
while Venus failed?
due to such a chain of misfortune?
just another irrationally random mechanical accident

Oct 07, 2019
Venus would not have been born with its current CO2 thick atmosphere.


Because they can't have a run away greenhouse effect theory.

Oct 08, 2019
Venus would not have been born with its current CO2 thick atmosphere.


Because they can't have a run away greenhouse effect theory.


Anything scientific to add? Thought not?

Oct 08, 2019
It looks like a local flood basalt, like those that build the Massif Central mountain range covering 15 % of France [ https://en.wikipe..._Central ]. This looks like weaker evidence than the global atmopshere and highland presence.

And this implies a potato, potatoe situation, since plate tectonics in as much as plate tectonics are tied to Earth and water conditions:

""If the Ovda Regio highlands are made of basaltic rock as is most of Venus, they were likely squeezed up to their current heights by internal forces, possibly like mountains which result from plate tectonics on Earth."

Oct 08, 2019
Why the heck should we anticipate that a planet so close to the sun should have held liquid water oceans?


It's in the article: "Previous studies suggested that early Venus was once warm and wet based on the chemistry of its atmosphere and the presence of highlands."

Neither Earth nor Venus would be much warm without their greenhouse gases, Earth ~ - 20 degC and Venus ~ - 40 [!] deg C [ https://www.acs.o...res.html ] (if the cloud albedo is imposed, I think, which would make Venus slightly colder than else at a guess).

Oct 08, 2019
Neither Earth nor Venus would be much warm without their greenhouse gases, Earth ~ - 20 degC and Venus ~ - 40 [!] deg C [ https://www.acs.o...res.html ]
Good point, this implies that there is a habitable range for a planet's concentration of GHGs. This is not so much a climate science question as geoengineering -- for Earth, what's the optimum concentration, in terms of habitability, for CO2 in parts per million? With plenty of ice at the poles, at which end of the habitable range are we at currently here on Earth? At the high end, is there a potential for runaway heating and if so, what is the quantifiable tipping point, e.g., 450 ppm CO2 [assuming other factors are unchanged] ? (I realize some sophisticated modeling is likely required to answer accurately -- where are we at currently with using models for geoengineering? Are we still arguing about whether we can even affect the climate on a planetary scale?)

Oct 08, 2019
Oh, Ovda Fluctus,
dreamt, once I,
of you so warm and wet,
with your highlands of granite.
Alas, younger hotter
Ovda Regio, I see
revealing her softer basaltic,
plateau.

So, no more talk about you volcanic flows, ok.

Oct 08, 2019
It looks like a local flood basalt, like those that build the Massif Central mountain range covering 15 % of France [ https://en.wikipe..._Central ]. This looks like weaker evidence than the global atmopshere and highland presence.

And this implies a potato, potatoe situation, since plate tectonics in as much as plate tectonics are tied to Earth and water conditions:

""If the Ovda Regio highlands are made of basaltic rock as is most of Venus, they were likely squeezed up to their current heights by internal forces, possibly like mountains which result from plate tectonics on Earth."


Except there are other methods of creating highlands. This could be the result of two nearby mantle plumes. Since we know that mantle plumes exist on Venus (they form the coronae) and we don't know that Venus ever had an appreciable amount of liquid water, the simpler hypothesis is that plate tectonics did not happen on Venus.

Oct 08, 2019
Just a seething hot planet, no evidence for water nor some runaway greenhouse faerie tales.

Oct 08, 2019
Just a seething hot planet, no evidence for water nor some runaway greenhouse faerie tales.


There is plenty of evidence for a run-away greenhouse effect.

Venus should have a blackbody temperature of 226.6 K; instead, it has a surface temperature of 737 K. This is entirely due to the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.

https://nssdc.gsf...act.html

Oct 08, 2019
Just a seething hot planet, no evidence for water nor some runaway greenhouse faerie tales.


There is plenty of evidence for a run-away greenhouse effect.

Venus should have a blackbody temperature of 226.6 K; instead, it has a surface temperature of 737 K. This is entirely due to the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.

https://nssdc.gsf...act.html


You'll get used to CD - he thinks Venus came flying out of Jupiter a week ago last Tuesday! As per the loon Velikovsky. Sad, but true.

Oct 09, 2019
The same type "conclusions" appear over and over again on the History Channel on Fridays:

- Evidence suggests...
- Recent studies imply...
- Research theorizes...
- The science leads us to believe...

All from Ancient Alien Theorists...

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more