Despite the obvious differences, Venus has a surprising commonality with Earth in many ways, including its composition. It is also near its twin in size. A new study suggests that volcanic eruptions played a part in Venus’ transition from wet to dry.
Volcanoes are powerful planetary processes, fueled by the deep interior of the planets. These eruptions can have great effects on a planet’s climate, releasing large volumes of greenhouse gases and potentially contributing to a runaway greenhouse effect. Volcanoes can also influence oceans and cause feedback cycles. For example, on Earth, continent-size eruptions of lava have caused oceans to evaporate, which has contributed to mass extinctions.
Several massive volcanic eruptions may have contributed to Venus’ transition from wet to dry. Scientists have proposed that these eruptions were the catalyst for a runaway greenhouse effect, which caused Venus’ climate to change. However, they have not been able to witness smoking-gun proof of a live eruption. However, a recent study suggests that the chemical remnants found on Venus are from active volcanic eruptions on the surface. These findings are exciting because they offer a possible glimpse into the planet’s geological heart. The findings may also help scientists learn more about the planet’s climate and the role of volcanoes in it.
Besides volcanic eruptions, another key process is plate tectonics, which is a process by which plates dive into a superheated mantle. Plate tectonics also acts as a planetary thermostat, a process that can heat the planet’s surface and keep it from getting too cold. If there were continents on Venus, the oceans would have been filled with heat-trapping water vapor, which would have heated the atmosphere. If this happened, Venus’ climate would have changed dramatically. In turn, Venus would have lost water, leaving it hot, dry and unable to support life.
Volcanoes and plate tectonics may have played a part in Venus’ climate change, but scientists do not know for certain what type of geology is responsible. In the past, scientists have pondered whether Venus has been resurfaced or resurfaced in parts. They have also speculated that there are pancake-like layers of lava in Venus’ atmosphere, known as tesserae. These layers could have been formed by a continent-size eruption of lava, but they are also possible remnants of ancient global volcanism.
The discovery of a large amount of Phosphine, a noxious gas, in Venus’s atmosphere has also been noted by scientists. Phosphine is formed when hydrogen phosphide, a phosphorous compound, reacts with a silicate rock. When these phosphide atoms are exposed to oxygen, they break down into phosphine. This phosphine then breaks down into hydrogen phosphide.
Another interesting fact is that Venus has a much higher surface pressure than Earth, nearly 90 times higher. This is a significant difference in pressure, as CO2 is highly absorbing at high pressure. In turn, CO2 gets trapped in tectonic plates, which can only be released when volcanism occurs.
The findings of this study, which was supported by the Sellers Exoplanet Environments Collaboration, suggest that volcanism is a key factor in Venus’s current climate change. In addition to the Phosphine discovery, scientists have also uncovered a “hot zone” of volcanic activity on Venus. This area has a temperature of 467.8 degrees Celsius, which is more than 10 times the temperature of the average surface on Earth.