Retention of Water in Terrestrial Magma Oceans and Carbon-rich Early Atmospheres

Bower, Daniel J.; Hakim, Kaustubh; Sossi, Paolo A.; Sanan, Patrick (2022). Retention of Water in Terrestrial Magma Oceans and Carbon-rich Early Atmospheres. The planetary science journal, 3(4), p. 93. IOP Publishing 10.3847/PSJ/ac5fb1

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Massive steam and CO2 atmospheres have been proposed for magma ocean outgassing of Earth and terrestrial planets. Yet formation of such atmospheres depends on volatile exchange with the molten interior, governed by volatile solubilities and redox reactions. We determine the evolution of magma ocean–atmosphere systems for a range of oxygen fugacities, C/H ratios, and hydrogen budgets that include redox reactions for hydrogen (H2–H2O), carbon (CO–CO2), methane (CH4), and solubility laws for H2O and CO2. We find that small initial budgets of hydrogen, high C/H ratios, and oxidizing conditions suppress outgassing of hydrogen until the late stage of magma ocean crystallization. Hence, early atmospheres in equilibrium with magma oceans are dominantly carbon-rich, and specifically CO-rich except at the most oxidizing conditions. The high solubility of H2O limits its outgassing to melt fractions below ∼30%, the fraction at which the mantle transitions from vigorous to sluggish convection with melt percolation. Sluggish melt percolation could enable a surface lid to form, trapping water in the interior and thereby maintaining a carbon-rich atmosphere (equilibrium crystallization). Alternatively, efficient crystal settling could maintain a molten surface, promoting a transition to a water-rich atmosphere (fractional crystallization). However, additional processes, including melt trapping and H dissolution in crystallizing minerals, further conspire to limit the extent of H outgassing, even for fractional crystallization. Hence, much of the water delivered to planets during their accretion can be safely harbored in their interiors during the magma ocean stage, particularly at oxidizing conditions.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


10 Strategic Research Centers > Center for Space and Habitability (CSH)
08 Faculty of Science > Physics Institute > Space Research and Planetary Sciences
08 Faculty of Science > Physics Institute
08 Faculty of Science > Physics Institute > NCCR PlanetS

UniBE Contributor:

Bower, Daniel James, Hakim, Kaustubh


500 Science > 520 Astronomy
500 Science
500 Science > 530 Physics




IOP Publishing




Danielle Zemp

Date Deposited:

27 Feb 2023 13:56

Last Modified:

27 Feb 2023 23:27

Publisher DOI:





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