VIDEO: How the Surface of Mars Was Torn Apart by a Super Volcano Apocalypse
According to NASA scientists, tens of thousands of volcanic episodes known as “super-eruptions” happened on Mars 4 billion years ago, lasting half a billion years. Each of the massive eruptions hurled the equivalent of 400 million Olympic-sized swimming pools of gas and molten rock into the sky, forming a dense ash cloud that stretched for thousands of miles.
According to NASA, the eruptions would have been quite intense. The most recent comparable occurrence on Earth occurred 75,000 years ago in Northern Sumatra, when the Toba Caldera Complex erupted, causing a 10-year worldwide volcanic winter.
NASA announced on Sept. 15 that a team discovered evidence that millions of volcanic eruptions occurred in the Arabia Terra region of northern Mars, sending water vapor, carbon dioxide, and sulfur dioxide far into the planet’s atmosphere.
“Each of these eruptions would have had a significant climate impact,” said Patrick Whelley, a geologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, who led the Arabia Terra analysis. “Perhaps the released gas made the atmosphere thicker or blocked the sun and made the atmosphere colder.”
“Martian climate modelers will have some work to do to comprehend the impact of the volcanoes,” Whelley added.
A volcano collapses into a massive hole called a caldera after a super-eruption, which can span several of kilometers.
“Seven calderas in Arabia Terra were the first clues that the region may have formerly been home to super-eruptions-capable volcanoes,” NASA stated in a statement.
The calderas were initially thought to be craters caused by asteroid impacts, but scientists hypothesized in 2013 that they were calderas instead.
“Rather than hunting for volcanoes, we looked for ash since you can’t hide evidence,” Whelley explained.
Whelley’s team used NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to re-evaluate research that claimed mineral deposits on Arabia Terra’s surface were the result of volcanic eruptions.
“[W]e picked it up at that point and thought, ‘OK, well these are minerals that are linked with changed volcanic ash, which has already been documented,” said Alexandra Matiella Novak, a volcanologist at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. Now we’ll look at the distribution of minerals to determine if they follow the same pattern as us. This is a condensed version of the information.