Lunar and Planetary Institute

Structure and Evolution of Planetary Volcanoes

Dr. Patrick McGovern

Dr. Patrick McGovern
Planetary Geophysics

Dr. Patrick McGovern's research has focused on the structure and evolution of large volcanic edifices and provinces on the terrestrial planets.


He approaches these problems from a quantitative mechanical perspective, calculating the immense stresses that build up in the lithosphere (mechanically strong outer layer of a planet) as a result of loads from the surface (the large volcanos themselves), the subsurface (buoyant crustal underplating and mantle plumes), and within the lithosphere (inflation of magma chambers).


He compares the predictions of such models to observations from imaging, topography, gravity, and spectroscopy datasets, in order to constrain the conditions (such as lithospheric thickness, magmatic supply rate, loading history, and magma chamber dimensions) that controlled the formation of a volcano.

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