Silicate volcanism on Europa’s seafloor and implications for habitability

Geophysical Research Letters
By:  and 



Habitable ocean environments on Europa require an influx of reactants to maintain chemical disequilibrium. One possible source of reactants is seafloor volcanism. Modeling has shown that dissipation of tidal energy in Europa's asthenosphere can generate melt, but melt formation cannot be equated with volcanism. Melt must also be transported through Europa's cold lithosphere to erupt at the seafloor. Here, we use two models of dike propagation to show that dikes can only traverse the lithosphere if either the fracture toughness of the lithosphere or the flux into the dike is large (>500 MPa m1/2 or ∼1 m2 s−1, respectively). We conclude that cyclic volcanic episodes might provide reactants to Europa's ocean if magma accumulates at the base of the lithosphere for several thousand years. However, if dikes form too frequently, or are too numerous, the magma flux into each will be insufficient, and volcanism cannot support a habitable ocean environment.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Silicate volcanism on Europa’s seafloor and implications for habitability
Series title Geophysical Research Letters
DOI 10.1029/2021GL096939
Volume 49
Issue 5
Year Published 2022
Language English
Publisher American Geophysical Union
Contributing office(s) Astrogeology Science Center
Description e96939, 9 p.
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