Dune-slope activity due to frost and wind throughout the north polar erg, Mars
Published:January 01, 2019
Serina Diniega, Candice J. Hansen, Amanda Allen, Nathan Grigsby, Zheyu Li, Tyler Perez, Matthew Chojnacki, 2019. "Dune-slope activity due to frost and wind throughout the north polar erg, Mars", Martian Gullies and their Earth Analogues, S. J. Conway, J. L. Carrivick, P. A. Carling, T. de Haas, T.N. Harrison
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Repeat, high-resolution imaging of dunes within the Martian north polar erg have shown that these dune slopes are very active, with alcoves forming along the dune brink each Mars year. In some areas, a few hundred cubic metres of downslope sand movement have been observed, sometimes moving the dune brink ‘backwards’. Based on morphological and activity-timing similarities of these north polar features to southern dune gullies, identifying the processes forming these features is likely to have relevance for understanding the general evolution/modification of dune gullies. To determine alcove-formation model constraints, we have surveyed seven dune fields, each over 1–4 Mars winters. Consistent with earlier reports, we found that alcove-formation activity occurs during the autumn–winter seasons, before or while the stable seasonal frost layer is deposited. We propose a new model in which alcove formation occurs during the autumn, and springtime sublimation activity then enhances the feature. Summertime winds blow sand into the new alcoves, erasing small alcoves over a few Mars years. Based on the observed rate of alcove erasure, we estimated the effective aeolian sand transport flux. From this, we proposed that alcove formation may account for 2–20% of the total sand movement within these dune fields.
Supplementary material: A full listing of the HiRISE images used within this study and supplementary images, and analysis descriptions are available at https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.3936919
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Martian Gullies and their Earth Analogues
CONTAINS OPEN ACCESS
Gullies on Mars resemble terrestrial gullies involved in the transport of abundant material down steep slopes by liquid water. However, liquid water should not be stable at the Martian surface. The articles in this volume present the two main opposing theories for Martian gully formation: climate-driven melting of surficial water-ice deposits and seasonal dry-ice sublimation. The evidence presented ranges from remote-sensing observations, to experimental simulations, to comparison with Earth analogues. The opposing hypotheses imply either that Mars has been unusually wet in the last few million years or that it has remained a cold dry desert – both with profound implications for understanding the water budget of Mars and its habitability. The debate questions the limits of remote-sensing data and how we interpret active processes on extra-terrestrial planetary surfaces, even beyond those on Mars, as summarized by the review paper at the beginning of the book.