Martian Geomorphology: introduction
This book concerns the Martian landscape; that collection of volcanoes, valleys, impact craters and ice caps that recent images reveal both to be strikingly familiar but also strangely alien to the surface of our own planet. The primary aim of studying planetary landscapes is to understand the process(es) by which they formed, with the larger goal of unravelling key questions about the origin, evolution and potential habitability of our solar system.
Compared with Earth, Mars' surface erosion rates are extremely low (Golombek & Bridges 2000), so Martian landscapes ranging in age from the very ancient to the recent still remain preserved and amenable to observation. Because so much of the planet's geological history remains visible, Martian geomorphology has the potential to provide even deeper insights into the early evolution of the planet than is the case for terrestrial geomorphology. Furthermore, the lack of precipitation (at least for much of Martian geological history: Craddock & Howard 2002), vegetation or human influence have preserved landforms on the surface of Mars that on Earth are obscured, degraded or buried, and only recognizable from interpretation of the sedimentary rock record. These observations, together with the fact that virtually all of the geological processes seen on Earth are believed to have also occurred on Mars, make it a powerful laboratory for comparative studies of geomorphological processes.
Like any dominantly remote-sensing approach, studies of the Martian surface must account for in situ data, but outcrop and hand-sample examination is a luxury afforded
Figures & Tables
The latest Mars missions are returning data of unprecedented fidelity in their representation of the martian surface. New data include images with spatial resolution better than 30 cm per pixel, stereo imaging-derived terrain models with one meter postings, high-resolution imaging spectroscopy, and RADAR data that reveal subsurface structure. This book reveals how this information is being used to understand the evolution of martian landscapes, and includes topics such as fluvial flooding, permafrost and periglacial landforms, debris flows, deposition and erosion of sedimentary material, and the origin of lineaments on Phobos, the larger martian moon. Contemporary remote sensing data of Mars, on a par with those of Earth, reveal landscapes strikingly similar to regions of our own planet, so this book will be of interest to Earth scientists and planetary scientists alike. An overview chapter summarising Mars’ climate, geology and exploration is included for the benefit of those new to Mars.