Venus is home to many thousands of volcanic landforms that range in size from much less than 5 km to over 100 km in diameter. Volcanism is an important, widespread process on Venus and is a major expression of the planet’s secular loss of internal heat.

With the Magellan SAR (synthetic-aperture radar) FMAP (full-resolution radar map) left- and right-looking global mosaics with a resolution of 75 meters per pixel, WashU planetary scientists Paul Byrne and Rebecca Hahn have developed a global catalog of volcanoes on Venus . This map of 85,000 volcanoes on Venus helps locate the next active lava flow.

Byrne said, “ThiS paper provides the most comprehensive map of all volcanic edifices on Venus ever compiled. It provides researchers with a hugely valuable database to understand volcanism on that planet – an important planetary process, but for Venus it’s something we know very little about, even though it’s a world about the same size as ours.”

Hahn, a graduate student in earth and planetary sciences at Washington University, first author of the new paper, said: “We came up with the idea of ​​putting together a global catalog because nobody has done it on this scale before. It was tedious, but I had experience using ArcGIS software, which I used to build the map. That tool was not yet available when this data first became available in the 1990s.”

volcanic structures on Venus
A new article in JGR Planets provides the most comprehensive map of all volcanic edifices on Venus ever compiled. (Map made by Rebecca Hahn, Washington University in St. Louis)

“This new database allows scientists to think about where else to look for evidence of recent geological activity. We can do it by sifting through the decades-old Magellan data (as the new Science paper did) or by analyzing future data and comparing it to Magellan data.

This new study includes detailed analyzes of where volcanoes are, where and how they are clustered, and how their spatial distributions relate to the planet’s geophysical properties, such as crustal thickness. It also offers detailed insights into the volcanic properties of Venus – and arguably into the volcanism of any world to date.

The scientists discovered significantly fewer volcanoes in the range of 20-100 km in diameter, despite the fact that there are volcanoes on virtually the entire surface of Venus. They hypothesize that this may be due to magma availability and eruption rate.

Byrne and Hahn also wanted to take a closer look at the smaller volcanoes on Venus, those less than 3 miles wide that have been overlooked by previous volcano hunters.

Hahn said, “They are the most abundant volcanic feature on the planet: they represent about 99% of my dataset. We looked at their distribution using various spatial statistics to determine whether the volcanoes are clustered around other structures on Venus or whether they are grouped in particular areas.”

Byrne said, “This is one of the most exciting discoveries we’ve made for Venus – with data that is decades old! But there are still a lot of questions we have for Venus that we can’t answer, for which we’re over the moon and to the to surface.”

Magazine reference:

  1. Rebecca Hahn and Paul Byrne. A morphological and spatial analysis of volcanoes on Venus. JGR planets. DOI: 10.1029/2023JE007753