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Depth of faulting and ancient heat flows in the Kuiper region of Mercury from lobate scarp topography

Planetary and Space Science
DOI: 10.1016/j.pss.2011.08.003
  • Mercury
  • Lobate Scarps
  • Depth Of Faulting
  • Brittle–Ductile Transition
  • Heat Flow
  • Mathematics


Abstract Mercurian lobate scarps are interpreted to be the surface expressions of thrust faults formed by planetary cooling and contraction, which deformed the crust down to the brittle–ductile transition (BDT) depth at the time of faulting. In this work we have used a forward modeling procedure in order to analyze the relation between scarp topography and fault geometries and depths associated with a group of prominent lobate scarps (Santa Maria Rupes and two unnamed scarps) located in the Kuiper region of Mercury for which Earth-based radar altimetry is available. Also a backthrust associated with one of the lobate scarps has been included in this study. We have obtained best fits for depths of faulting between 30 and 39km; the results are consistent with the previous results for other lobate scarps on Mercury. The so-derived fault depths have been used to calculate surface heat flows for the time of faulting, taking into account crustal heat sources and a heterogeneous surface temperature due to the variable insolation pattern. Deduced surface heat flows are between 19 and 39mWm−2 for the Kuiper region, and between 22 and 43mWm−2 for Discovery Rupes. Both BDT depths and heat flows are consistent with the predictions of thermal history models for the range of time relevant for scarp formation.

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