AGU: Venus Has 50 Times More Volcanoes Than Previously Mapped


Radar and high-resolution imagery let researchers map edifices smaller than 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) in diameter, resulting in nearly 50 times as many volcanoes than had been mapped previously. The work, which puts more than 85,000 volcanoes on the map, is critical for understanding the planet’s volcanic activity.

Intrigued by reports of recent volcanic eruptions on Venus? WashU planetary scientists Paul Byrne and Rebecca Hahn want you to use their new map of 85,000 volcanoes on Venus to help locate the next active lava flow.

Their study was posted online ahead of print in JGR Planets.

“This paper provides the most comprehensive map of all volcanic edifices on Venus ever compiled,” said Byrne, an associate professor of earth and planetary sciences in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis. “It provides researchers with an enormously valuable database for understanding volcanism on that planet — a key planetary process, but for Venus is something about which we know very little, even though it’s a world about the same size as our own.”

Byrne and Hahn used radar imagery from NASA’s Magellan mission to Venus to catalog volcanoes across Venus at a global scale. Their resulting database contains 85,000 volcanoes, about 99% of which are less than 3 miles (5 km) in diameter.

“Since NASA’s Magellan mission in the 1990s, we’ve had numerous major questions about Venus’ geology, including its volcanic characteristics,” Byrne said. “But with the recent discovery of active volcanism on Venus, understanding just where volcanoes are concentrated on the planet, how many there are, how big they are, etc., becomes all the more important — especially since we’ll have new data for Venus in the coming years.”

“We came up with this idea of putting together a global catalog because no one’s done it at this scale before,” said Hahn, a graduate student in earth and planetary sciences at Washington University, first author of the new paper. “It was tedious, but I had experience using ArcGIS software, which is what I used to build the map. That tool wasn’t available when these data first became available back in the ’90s.

“People back then were manually hand-drawing circles around the volcanoes, when I can just do it on my computer.”

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