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Thermal evolution and Urey ratio of Mars

Plesa, A.-C.; Tosi, Nicola; Grott, M.; Breuer, D.

Zentrum für Astronomie und Astrophysik

The upcoming InSight (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) mission, to be launched in 2016, will carry out the first in situ Martian heat flux measurement, thereby providing an important baseline to constrain the present‐day heat budget of the planet and, in turn, the thermal and chemical evolution of its interior. The surface heat flux can be used to constrain the amount of heat‐producing elements present in the interior if the Urey ratio (Ur)—the planet's heat production rate divided by heat loss—is known. We used numerical simulations of mantle convection to model the thermal evolution of Mars and determine the present‐day Urey ratio for a variety of models and parameters. We found that Ur is mainly sensitive to the efficiency of mantle cooling, which is associated with the temperature dependence of the viscosity (thermostat effect), and to the abundance of long‐lived radiogenic isotopes. If the thermostat effect is efficient, as expected for the Martian mantle, assuming typical solar system values for the thorium‐uranium ratio and a bulk thorium concentration, simulations show that the present‐day Urey ratio is approximately constant, independent of model parameters. Together with an estimate of the average surface heat flux as determined by InSight, models of the amount of heat‐producing elements present in the primitive mantle can be constrained.
  • ©2015. American Geophysical Union