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Earth Space Science

Venus' Crust Heals Too Fast For Plate Tectonics 135

Posted by samzenpus
from the too-hot-to-crack dept.
An anonymous reader writes in with an interesting look at how important plate tectonics may be to life and why the crust on Venus works differently than it does on Earth. "Without plate tectonics, carbon would build up in the atmosphere. Venus, which does not have tectonics, shows the results: an atmosphere that is 96 percent carbon dioxide. It's toxic. Yet Venus is about the same size and composition as our planet, so why doesn't it have plate tectonics? Some researchers made a model to explore how Earth initiated plate movements, and these same researchers made one model of its neighbor for comparison. A 1.5-billion-year-old Earth and a similarly aged Venus were modeled as a hot, mushy material made of tiny particles of rock. The model uses physics at the one-millimeter rock grain scale to explain how the whole planet behaves. According to David Bercovici, a geophysicist at Yale who was an author on the paper, the model also shows how plate tectonics emerged on Earth but not on her twin."
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Venus' Crust Heals Too Fast For Plate Tectonics

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  • by erice (13380) on Monday April 21, 2014 @01:45PM (#46807303) Homepage

    From TFA:

    the Venus model, which was a couple hundred Kelvin hotter,

    So, how does it get so much hotter than Earth? It is certainly that much hotter now but that is attributed almost entirely to the greenhouse effect. However, the article earlier states:

    Without plate tectonics, carbon would build up in the atmosphere. Venus, which does not have tectonics, shows the results: an atmosphere that is 96 percent carbon dioxide.

    So, because plates did not form, Venus experienced a runaway greenhouse effect and high temperatures. But high temperatures are supposed to prevent plates from forming. A little circular, no?

    Don't get me wrong: this is interesting work but it doesn't really answer the question of how Venus became the way it is . To close the gap, you need to assume that:
    a) Venus started out 200K hotter though some other means (Proximity to the Sun is not generally considered sufficient for that)
    -or-
    b) Venus plate tectonics stalled early on for some other reason, allowing the greenhouse effect to take over.

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