Can volcanism build hydrogen-rich early atmospheres?

Liggins, Philippa and Shorttle, Oliver and Rimmer, Paul B. (2020) Can volcanism build hydrogen-rich early atmospheres? Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 550. p. 116546. ISSN 0012821X DOI https://doi.org/10.1016/j.epsl.2020.116546

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.epsl.2020.116546

Abstract

Hydrogen in rocky planet atmospheres has been invoked in arguments for extending the habitable zone via N2-H2 and CO2-H2 greenhouse warming, and providing atmospheric conditions suitable for efficient production of prebiotic molecules. On Earth and Super-Earth-sized bodies, where hydrogen-rich primordial envelopes are quickly lost to space, volcanic outgassing can act as a hydrogen source, provided it balances the hydrogen loss rate from the top of the atmosphere. Here, we show that both Earth-like and Mars-like planets can sustain atmospheric H2 fractions of several percent across relevant magmatic ranges. In general this requires hydrogen escape to operate somewhat less efficiently than the diffusion limit. We use a thermodynamical model of magma degassing to determine which combinations of magma oxidation, volcanic flux and hydrogen escape efficiency can build up appreciable levels of hydrogen in a planet's secondary atmosphere. On a planet similar to the Archean Earth and with a similar magmatic , we suggest that the mixing ratio of atmospheric H2 could have been in the range 0.2-3%, from a parameter sweep over a variety of plausible surface pressures, volcanic fluxes, and H2 escape rates. A planet erupting magmas around the Iron-Wüstite (IW) buffer (i.e., ∼3 log units lower than the inferred Archean mantle ), but with otherwise similar volcanic fluxes and H2 loss rates to early Earth, could sustain an atmosphere with approximately 10-20% H2. For an early Mars-like planet with magmas around IW, but a lower range of surface pressures and volcanic fluxes compared to Earth, an atmospheric H2 mixing ratio of ∼2-8% is possible. On early Mars, this H2 mixing ratio could be sufficient to deglaciate the planet. However, the sensitivity of these results to primary magmatic water contents and volcanic fluxes show the need for improved constraints on the crustal recycling efficiency and mantle water contents of early Mars.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: 2020AREP; IA76
Subjects: 05 - Petrology - Igneous, Metamorphic and Volcanic Studies
Divisions: 05 - Petrology - Igneous, Metamorphic and Volcanic Studies
08 - Green Open Access
12 - PhD
Journal or Publication Title: Earth and Planetary Science Letters
Volume: 550
Page Range: p. 116546
Identification Number: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.epsl.2020.116546
Depositing User: Sarah Humbert
Date Deposited: 03 Sep 2020 16:31
Last Modified: 03 Sep 2020 16:31
URI: http://eprints.esc.cam.ac.uk/id/eprint/4869

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