Sulfur Dioxide: Episodic Injection Shows Evidence for Active Venus Volcanism

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Science  09 Mar 1984:
Vol. 223, Issue 4640, pp. 1072-1074
DOI: 10.1126/science.223.4640.1072


Pioneer Venus ultraviolet spectra from the first 5 years of operation show a decline (by more than a factor of 10) in sulfur dioxide abundance at the cloud tops and in the amount of submicron haze above the clouds. At the time of the Pioneer Venus encounter, the values for both parameters greatly exceeded earlier upper limits. However, Venus had a similar appearance in the late 1950's, implying the episodic injection of sulfur dioxide possibly caused by episodic volcanism. The amount of haze in the Venus middle atmosphere is about ten times that found in Earth's stratosphere after the most recent major volcanic eruptions, and the thermal energy required for this injection on Venus is greater by about an order of magnitude than the largest of these recent Earth eruptions and about as large as the Krakatoa eruption of 1883. The episodic behavior of sulfur dioxide implies that steady-state models of the chemistry and dynamics of cloud-top regions may be of limited use.

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