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Authors: Etiope, G.* 
Oehler, D. Z.* 
Allen, C. C.* 
Title: Methane emissions from Earth’s degassing: Implications for Mars
Journal: Planetary and Space Science 
Series/Report no.: 2-3/59(2011)
Publisher: Elsevier
Issue Date: Feb-2011
DOI: 10.1016/j.pss.2010.06.003
Keywords: Mars
Earth’s degassing
Subject Classification04. Solid Earth::04.04. Geology::04.04.12. Fluid Geochemistry 
Abstract: The presence of methane on Mars is of great interest, since one possibility for its origin is that it derives from living microbes. However, CH4 in the martian atmosphere also could be attributable to geologic emissions released through pathways similar to those occurring on Earth. Using recent data on methane degassing of the Earth, we have estimated the relative terrestrial contributions of fossil geologic methane vs. modern methane from living methanogens, and have examined the significance that various geologic sources might have for Mars. Geologic degassing includes microbial methane (produced by ancient methanogens), thermogenic methane (from maturation of sedimentary organic matter), and subordinately geothermal and volcanic methane (mainly produced abiogenically). Our analysis suggests that not, vert, similar80% of the “natural” emission to the terrestrial atmosphere originates from modern microbial activity and not, vert, similar20% originates from geologic degassing, for a total CH4 emission of not, vert, similar28.0×107 tonnes year−1. Estimates of methane emission on Mars range from 12.6×101 to 57.0×104 tonnes year−1 and are 3–6 orders of magnitude lower than that estimated for Earth. Nevertheless, the recently detected martian, Northern-Summer-2003 CH4 plume could be compared with methane expulsion from large mud volcanoes or from the integrated emission of a few hundred gas seeps, such as many of those located in Europe, USA, Mid-East or Asia. Methane could also be released by diffuse microseepage from martian soil, even if macro-seeps or mud volcanoes were lacking or inactive. We calculated that a weak microseepage spread over a few tens of km2, as frequently occurs on Earth, may be sufficient to generate the lower estimate of methane emission in the martian atmosphere. At least 65% of Earth’s degassing is provided by kerogen thermogenesis. A similar process may exist on Mars, where kerogen might include abiogenic organics (delivered by meteorites and comets) and remnants of possible, past martian life. The remainder of terrestrial degassed methane is attributed to fossil microbial gas (not, vert, similar25%) and geothermal-volcanic emissions (not, vert, similar10%). Global abiogenic emissions from serpentinization are negligible on Earth, but, on Mars, individual seeps from serpentinization could be significant. Gas discharge from clathrate-permafrost destabilization should also be considered. Finally, we have shown examples of potential degassing pathways on Mars, including mud volcano-like structures, fault and fracture systems, and major volcanic edifices. All these types of structures could provide avenues for extensive gas expulsion, as on Earth. Future investigations of martian methane should be focused on such potential pathways.
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