Friday, February 03, 2017

Cryovolcanic emplacement of domes on Europa


Quick et al


Here we explore the hypothesis that certain domes on Europa may have been produced by the extrusion of viscous cryolavas. A new mathematical method for the emplacement and relaxation of viscous lava domes is presented and applied to putative cryovolcanic domes on Europa. A similarity solution approach is applied to the governing equation for fluid flow in a cylindrical geometry, and dome relaxation is explored assuming a volume of cryolava has been rapidly emplaced onto the surface. Nonphysical singularities inherent in previous models for dome relaxation have been eliminated, and cryolava cooling is represented by a time-variable viscosity. We find that at the onset of relaxation, bulk kinematic viscosities may lie in the range between 103 and 106 m2/s, while the actual fluid lava viscosity may be much lower. Plausible relaxation times to form the domes, which are linked to bulk cryolava rheology, are found to range from 3.6 days to 7.5 years. We find that cooling of the cryolava, while dominated by conduction through an icy skin, should not prevent fluids from advancing and relaxing to form domes within the timescales considered. Determining the range of emplacement conditions for putative cryolava domes will shed light on Europa's resurfacing history. In addition, the rheologies and compositions of erupted cryolavas have implications for subsurface cryomagma ascent and local surface stress conditions on Europa.

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