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Landforms indicative of ground-ice thaw in the northern high latitudes of Mars

By
C. J. Gallagher
C. J. Gallagher
UCD School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Policy, Newman Building, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland
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M. R. Balme
M. R. Balme
Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA, UKPlanetary Science Institute Tucson, 1700 E. Fort Lowell, Suite 106, Tucson, AZ 85719, USA
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Published:
January 01, 2011

Abstract

The confirmation of near-surface ground ice and perchlorates at the Phoenix landing site suggest that high-latitude ground-ice thaw may be more easily achieved than previously envisaged, providing the potential to drive significant, distinctive morphogenesis. We describe the results of a survey of 23 High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) images covering 337° of longitude between latitudes 59°N and 79°N in which such morphogenesis is apparent, confirming that thaw has been a regionally important morphological agent. Some of the strongest geomorphological indicators of cyclical ground-ice thaw described are assemblages of sorted landforms, including clastic patterned ground resulting from cryoturbation of ice-rich regolith and lobate forms reflecting solifluction. Also described are braided gully-fan systems sourced at thermokarst pits and channels that have evolved from enlarged thermal contraction cracks. Not only are these landforms indicative of thaw and flowing liquid but the incision of solifluction lobes by thermokarst gullies demonstrates that thaw has been responsible for polycyclic morphogenesis. The presence of these landforms across the high northern latitudes of Mars indicates that the regional importance of thaw has been underestimated. This in turn has important implications for the development of better climate models and the search for life on Mars.

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Contents

Geological Society, London, Special Publications

Martian Geomorphology

M. R. Balme
M. R. Balme
Open University, UK
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A. S. Bargery
A. S. Bargery
Lancaster University, UK
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C. J. Gallagher
C. J. Gallagher
University College Dublin, Ireland
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S. Gupta
S. Gupta
Imperial College London, UK
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Geological Society of London
Volume
356
ISBN electronic:
9781862396043
Publication date:
January 01, 2011

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