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Abstract

We report on a decade of fieldwork designed to determine the conditions required for erosion of Mars-like gully channels in the McMurdo Dry Valleys (MDV) of Antarctica. We have outlined the major factors in the morphological evolution of gullies in the Inland Mixed Zone of the MDV: (1) the distribution of ice sources; (2) the temporal aspects of ice melting; and (3) the relative significance of melting events in gullies. We show that significant erosion of gully channels can be achieved if geometrical and environmental conditions combine to concentrate ice where it can rapidly melt. In contrast, annual melting of surface ice and snow deposits during late-season discharge events contribute to transport of water, but flux rarely surpasses the infiltration capacity of the active layer. These small discharge events do not erode channels of significant width. Even when the flux is sufficient to carve a c. 10–20 cm deep channel during late summer (January–February) runoff, these small channels seldom persist through multiple seasons, because they are seasonally muted and filled with aeolian deposits. We briefly discuss the application of these results to the study of gully systems on Mars.

Supplementary material: Eight videos showing activity and events are available at https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.3935992

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