The dual nature of the martian crust: Young lavas and old clastic materials

Joshua L. Bandfield, Christopher S. Edwards, David R. Montgomery, Brittany D. Brand

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Visible and thermal infrared spacecraft datasets are used to gain insight into the nature of the surface materials and upper martian crust, revealing a distinct transition in the physical properties of martian crustal materials that occurred during the Hesperian era. Contrary to a prevailing view of the martian crust as primarily composed of lava flows, we find that most older regions of Mars have morphological and thermophysical properties consistent with poorly consolidated fine-particulate materials that may have a volcaniclastic origin. By contrast, younger surfaces contain blocky materials and thermophysical properties consistent with effusive lava flows. Explosive volcanism is likely to have been dominant on early Mars and these findings have implications for the evolution of the volatile content of the crust and mantle and subsequent development of the surface morphology. This dual nature of the crust appears to be a defining characteristic of martian history.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)188-199
Number of pages12
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Geological processes
  • Infrared observations
  • Mars, Surface
  • Regoliths
  • Terrestrial planets

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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