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Simulation of Freezing Cryomagma Reservoirs in Viscoelastic Ice Shells

Abstract : Brine reservoirs in Europa's icy crust, if they exist, could represent the most accessible liquid water bodies in the outer solar system. Any potential subsurface reservoirs are key for the exploration of ocean worlds and the search for habitability and life beyond Earth. Previous studies have demonstrated that freezing cryoreservoirs might trigger eruptions due to the pressurization associated with volume change as liquid water expands to become water ice, but those studies did not take into account the deformation of the reservoir wall. Viscoelastic deformation of the wall can act to accommodate the growing overpressure and prevent eruptions. Here we utilize a semianalytical numerical approach to calculate the pressure-induced deformation of a freezing cryoreservoir on Europa as a function of the far-field ice temperature. We find that shallow reservoirs located in relatively cold ice deform slightly and can be pressurized by freezing, but that deeper reservoirs located in warmer ice deform more easily and in some cases cannot reach the threshold overpressure required for spontaneous eruption. We identify a transition depth around 4-8 km depending on the reservoir radius, assuming a conductive ice shell structure consistent with current best estimates. Further, we find that shallow lens-shaped reservoirs may store a large volume of cryomagma and can be easily pressurized by freezing; they represent the best candidates for the mobilization of cryovolcanic material at Europa's surface.
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Submitted on : Thursday, August 4, 2022 - 8:33:23 AM
Last modification on : Saturday, August 6, 2022 - 3:26:36 AM

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Elodie Lesage, Hélène Massol, Samuel M. Howell, Frédéric Schmidt. Simulation of Freezing Cryomagma Reservoirs in Viscoelastic Ice Shells. The Planetary Science Journal, 2022, 3, ⟨10.3847/PSJ/ac75bf⟩. ⟨insu-03745278⟩

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