Martian Volcanoes

Mike Caplinger, Malin Space Science Systems February 1994

Volcanoes on Mars have been divided into three types.

Montes (mountains)

The montes or large shields are likely basaltic (like the volcanos in Hawaii and Iceland), very large (Olympus Mons is the largest mountain feature known anywhere in the solar system), and have very gentle slopes of six degrees or less.

Ascraeus Mons

Pavonis Mons

Arsia Mons

Tholi (domes)

The tholi are smaller than the montes, generally convex (dome-shaped), and have somewhat steeper flanks, in some cases greater than 8 degrees in slope. There are two possible explanations for the difference between the tholi and the montes. It may be that the material of the tholi was more viscous during the eruptions, or it may be because the eruptions that formed the tholi were of small volume, and hence the flows piled up closer to their source.

Tharsis Tholus

Ceraunius and Uranius Tholi

Paterae (complex, collapsed shields)

The paterae (patera means "saucer" in Latin) are widely varied in form; in general they have very shallow slopes and scalloped, complex edges in their summit calderas; many have radial channels on their flanks. Some of the paterae (for example, Apollinaris Patera) have been extensively modified by collapse and erosion; others (Biblis Patera, for example) have fairly symmetric structure with collapsed caldera walls. The speculation is that, because of their susceptibility to erosion and collapse, they are composed of loose materials such as ash flows. The extreme state of erosion on some of the paterae leads to the conclusion that these are the oldest of the volcanic constructs.

Apollinaris Patera

Biblis Patera

Tyrrhena Patera

Ulysses Patera

Uranius Patera

Alba Patera

Alba Patera is unique among the paterae on Mars and indeed, appears to be unlike any other feature in the solar system. It is very large (over 1600 kilometers across), has a central caldera, but rises no more than 3 km from the surrounding plains. Alba Patera appears to have been formed by numerous flow events that were either much higher in rate or much longer in duration than flows seen elsewhere.

central Alba Patera

Locations of various volcanoes

Tharsis Area

Elysium Area

Mike Caplinger (