EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Martian Dichotomy from a Giant Impact: Mantle Convection Models

Kar Wai Cheng1, Paul J. Tackley1, Antoine B. Rozel1, Gregor J. Golabek2, Harry Ballantyne3, and Martin Jutzi3
Kar Wai Cheng et al.
  • 1Institute of Geophysics, ETH Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland
  • 2Bayerisches Geoinstitut, University of Bayreuth, Bayreuth, Germany
  • 3Center for Space and Habitability, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland

The Martian crustal dichotomy is one of the most prominent features on the planet, featuring a ≈5.5 km difference in topography and a ≈25 km difference in crustal thickness between the southern highland and northern lowland [1]. It Is thought to have formed within the first 400-500 Myr of Martian history [2]. While its formation process remains unclear, there have been different hypotheses to explain it, including an endothermic degree-1 convection mode [3, 4], and the excavation of the lowland crust by a giant impact [5]. In this study we focus on the hybrid hypothesis, where an early giant impact created a magma pond, and subsequent mantle convection alters the internal mantle structure as well as crustal distribution in the next 4 billion years [6, 7].  By imposing a parametrized giant impact as a thermal anomaly as an initial condition, we simulate the long-term evolution of the crust and mantle using the thermochemical convection code StagYY [8]. In particular, we investigate the effect of physical parameters of both the solid mantle and the impact-induced magma pond, as well as those of the crust production process, on the crystallisation of such pond, its interaction with surrounding mantle and the preservation of impact signature. Diagnostics including topography and crust thickness from these different models will be presented and compared.


[1] Watters, T., McGovern, P., & Irwin III, R. (2007). Hemispheres Apart: The Crustal Dichotomy on Mars. Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences, 35(1), 621-652.

[2] Taylor, S., & McLennan, S. (2009). Planetary crusts. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

[3] Roberts, J., & Zhong, S. (2006). Degree-1 convection in the Martian mantle and the origin of the hemispheric dichotomy. Journal of Geophysical Research, 111(E6).

[4] Keller, T., & Tackley, P. (2009). Towards self-consistent modeling of the martian dichotomy: The influence of one- ridge convection on crustal thickness distribution. Icarus, 202(2), 429-443.

[5] Andrews-Hanna, J., Zuber, M., & Banerdt, W. (2008). The Borealis basin and the origin of the martian crustal dichotomy. Nature, 453(7199), 1212-1215.

[6] Golabek, G., Keller, T., Gerya, T., Zhu, G., Tackley, P., & Connolly, J. (2011). Origin of the martian dichotomy and Tharsis from a giant impact causing massive magmatism. Icarus, 215(1), 346-357.

[7] Reese, C., Orth, C., & Solomatov, V. (2011). Impact megadomes and the origin of the martian crustal dichotomy. Icarus, 213(2), 433-442.

[8] Tackley, P. (2008). Modelling compressible mantle convection with large viscosity contrasts in a three- dimensional spherical shell using the yin-yang grid. Physics of The Earth and Planetary Interiors, 171(1-4), 7-18



How to cite: Cheng, K. W., Tackley, P. J., Rozel, A. B., Golabek, G. J., Ballantyne, H., and Jutzi, M.: Martian Dichotomy from a Giant Impact: Mantle Convection Models, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-5745,, 2021.

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