Io, the most volcanically active body in the solar system, also has some of the tallest and steepest mountains. The mountains seem to be tectonic in origin, yet the methods of their formation have not been decisively constrained and their associations with volcanic paterae are yet unclear. We have compiled global spatial statistics on mountain dimensions and orientations, lineations attributed to structures, straight patera margins, and patera dimensions in order to better define their genetic relationships and the mechanisms forming each type of feature. Additionally, we have produced 4 regional structural maps of mountain complexes and have proposed tectonic histories. Global statistics show that paterae and mountains and their associated lineations are more common at low latitudes and that lineations attributed to tectonics have preferred azimuths of 45° and 135°, whereas straight patera margins and azimuths appear more random. Additionally, tectonic lineations tend to cluster to those of similar types and are smaller when closer together. Mountains in general on Io are isolated, varied in size and shape, and have no significant geographic patterns in those variations. These results may indicate that global-scale processes are involved in forming Io's tectonic structures, but that the diversity of mountain characteristics and the collapse of paterae adjacent to mountain complexes may be more regionally controlled. Mapping of the Hi'iaka, Shamshu, Tohil, and Zal regions has shown that Io's mountains reside in large, faulted-bounded crustal blocks, which have undergone modification through local responses of subsurface structures. Strike-slip motion along reactivated faults has led to the formation of both transpressional and transtensional features, creating tall peaks and low basins, some of which are now occupied by paterae. Subsurface structures play a large role in Io's mountain diversity. Based on interpretation of statistical results and on our localized mapping, we propose that Io's mountains result from a combination of crustal stresses involving both global and local-scale processes. Multiple faults and fractures in a variety of orientations formed in Io's lithosphere, created over billions of years by stresses imposed by volcanic loading and tidal flexing. These faults have been progressively buried over time under multiple layers of volcanic material. Stresses continuing from loading and tidal massaging sometimes occur at oblique angles to pre-existing faults, reactivating them as reverse, normal, or strike-slip faults. Because of this, large, cohesive fault-bounded blocks have undergone both transpressional and transtensional modification. Further degradation of mountains has also occurred from extensive mass wasting, gravitational collapse, and erosion by sublimation and sapping of sulfur-rich layers within the crust. This model of fault-bounded blocks being modified by continual stresses and local structural response accounts for the variation and patterns of mountain sizes, shapes, and orientations, along with their isolation and interactions with other features. It presents an explanation for the influence of global and regional tectonics and a more detailed account of the formation of some of Io's remarkable mountains.



College and Department

Physical and Mathematical Sciences; Geological Sciences



Date Submitted


Document Type





Io, tectonics, volcanism, orogenesis, surfaces (satellites)



Included in

Geology Commons