Tidally induced lateral variations of Io's interior

T. Steinke*, H. Hu, D. Höning, W. van der Wal, B. Vermeersen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Satellite and recent Earth-based observations of Io's surface reveal a specific spatial pattern of persisting hotspots and sudden high-intensity events. Io's major heat producing mechanism is tidal dissipation, which is thought to be non-uniformly distributed within Io's mantle and asthenosphere. The question arises to what extent Io's non-homogeneous heat production can cause long-wavelength variations in the interior and volcanic activity at the surface. We investigate dissipation patterns resulting from two different initially spherical symmetric visco-elastic rheological structures, which are consistent with geodetic observations. The spatial distributions of the time-averaged tidal heat production are computed by a finite element model. Whereas for the first rheological structure heat is produced only in the upper viscous layer (asthenosphere-heating model), the second rheological structure results in a more evenly distributed dissipation pattern (mixed-heating model) with tidal heating occurring in the deep mantle and the asthenosphere. To relate the heat production to the interior temperature and melt distribution, we use steady-state scaling laws of mantle convection and a simple melt migration model. The resulting long-wavelength thermal heterogeneities strongly depend on the initial tidal dissipation pattern, the thickness of the convective layer, the mantle viscosity, and the ratio between magmatic and convective heat transport. While for the asthenosphere-heating model a strong lateral temperature signal with up to 190 K peak-to-peak difference can remain, convection within a thick convective layer, as for the mixed-heating model, can reduce the lateral temperature variation to <1 K, if the mantle viscosity is sufficiently low. Models with a dominating magma heat transport preserve the long-wavelength pattern of tidal dissipation much better and are favoured, because they are better to explain Io's thick crust. The approach presented here can also be applied to investigate the effect of an arbitrary interior heating pattern on Io's volcanic activity pattern.

Original languageEnglish
Article number113299
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
Early online date10 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2020


  • Heterogeneous internal heating
  • Io
  • Mantle convection
  • Melt advection
  • Tidal dissipation


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