Metasomatism is a source of methane on Mars

Michele Rinaldi, Sami Mikhail*, Dimitri A. Sverjensky

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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The abundance of inactive Martian volcanic centres suggests that early Mars was more volcanically active than today. On Earth, volcanic degassing releases climate-forcing gases such as H2O, SO2, and CO2 into the atmosphere. On Mars, the volcanic carbon is likely to be more methane-rich than on Earth because the interior is, and was, more reducing than the present-day Terrestrial upper mantle. The reports of reduced carbon associated with high-temperature minerals in Martian igneous meteorites back up this assertion. Here, we undertake irreversible reaction path models of the fluid-rock interaction to predict carbon speciation in magmatic fluids at the Martian crust-mantle boundary. We find methane is a major carbon species between 300 and 800 °C where logfO2 is set at the Fayalite = Magnetite + Quartz redox buffer reaction (FMQ). When logfO2 is below FMQ, methane is dominant across all temperatures investigated (300–800 °C). Moreover, ultramafic rocks produce more methane than mafic lithologies. The cooling of magmatic bodies leads to the release of a fluid phase, which serves as a medium within which methane is formed at high temperatures and transported. Metasomatic methane is, therefore, a source of reduced carbonaceous gases to the early Martian atmosphere and, fundamentally, for all telluric planets, moons, and exoplanets with Mars-like low logfO2 interiors.

Original languageEnglish
Article number118672
Number of pages9
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Early online date1 Apr 2024
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2024


  • Methanogenesis
  • Mars
  • Thermodynamic modelling


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