Mars may have supported at one point shallow oceans made possible by massive volcanic eruptions, a new study suggests.
Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, believe that shoreline-like structures on Mars could have formed due to shallow oceans. However, they still don’t know exactly what caused the water to dissipate. The research paper, published in the journal, Nature, theorizes that volcanic eruptions could have altered the planet’s climate to the point where water could no longer exist in liquid form.
More so, researchers believe that a gigantic volcanic region on Mars called Tharsis could have been responsible for the formation of oceans on the Red Planet.
“We’re saying that the oceans predate and accompany the lava outpourings that made Tharsis,” said Michael Manga, co-author of the paper and a professor at the university.
Professor Manga believes that volcanoes were an important factor in creating humidity on Mars and shallow oceans could have formed around 3.7 billion years ago. This formation was linked to the creation of Tharsis.
The researcher explained that the greenhouse effect caused by the accumulation of gases in the atmosphere from the volcanic eruptions would have kept Mars warm, thus allowing liquid water to exist on its surface. These eruptions would have also created underground channels through which water could reach the surface and fill up the planet’s northern plains.
In addition, a smaller Tharsis in the planet’s early years did not influence the surface of Mars that much, which led the researchers to theorize that most of the Northern Hemisphere of Mars could have been one large ocean. Yet, the lack of crustal deformation from Tharsis means that the oceans would have been shallow.
Tharsis is home to some of the largest volcanoes in the solar system. Its mass creates a bulge on Mars’ opposite side and a depression in between which could explain why the Martian northern plains could hold about twice as much water as they could about 4 billion years ago.
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