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Inflated Lava Flows in Hawai’i, New Mexico, and Idaho: Implications for the Moon and Mars

Wednesday, October 20, 2010
W. Brent
Garry (Smithsonian Institute)

Evidence for inflation processes in basaltic lava flows was documented by G. Walker's study of the 1859 Mauna Loa lava flow. Inflation occurs as lava is injected under solidified crust and causes sections of the flow to rise and increase in thickness. To constrain aspects indicative of inflated basalt flows, we have documented the morphology and surface textures of lava flows in Hawai'i (1859 Mauna Loa), New Mexico (McCarty's, Carrizozo), and Idaho (Craters of the Moon, Cerro Grande). Surface textures preserved in these flows include lineated, ropey, ball and groove, and platy. Morphologic features include tumuli, platforms, lava rise pits, squeeze ups, and terraced margins. Differential Global Positioning System (DGPS) surveys used to document the topography across inflated platforms shows reliefs up to 15 m and changes across the surfaces of 0.5 to 1.0 m over hundreds of meters. The texture details combined with topography are important to piece together the complex emplacement history of these lava flows. High-resolution images of the Moon and Mars reveal flow morphologies similar to terrestrial inflated lava flows. Here, I’ll compare our field work on several inflated lava flows and discuss their potential as analogs for possible inflated lava flows on the Moon and Mars.

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