Are different Martian gully morphologies due to different processes on the Kaiser dune field?
Published:January 01, 2019
Kelly Pasquon, Julien Gargani, Marion Nachon, Susan J. Conway, Marion Massé, Gwenaël Jouannic, Matthew R. Balme, François Costard, Mathieu Vincendon, 2019. "Are different Martian gully morphologies due to different processes on the Kaiser dune field?", 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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We describe and compare the morphology and activity of two types of gullies with different orientations collocated on the Kaiser dune field in the southern hemisphere of Mars: large apron gullies and linear dune gullies. The activity of large apron gullies follows an annual cycle: (i) material collapse into the alcove (mid-autumn/late winter) as CO2 condenses; (ii) remobilization by mass flows (late winter); and (iii) continuous appearance of hundreds of ‘digitate flows’ on the fan (autumn/winter). We find that large apron gullies could form in hundreds of Martian years. In contrast, linear dune gullies are active briefly in late winter, when the CO2 frost disappears. Their activity is characterized by the extension of channels, the creation of pits and the darkening of the surface. Linear dune gullies are likely to form within one to tens of Martian years. We infer that insolation, which influences the depth to ground ice and the amount of volatile deposited, may be the factor differentiating large apron gullies and linear dune gullies. Sediment transport by CO2 sublimation is a good candidate for the activity observed in all of these features. However, linear gullies could also be formed by brine release when the temperature rises abruptly after the removal of the CO2 ice.
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Martian Gullies and their Earth Analogues
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.