An experimental investigation into Martian gully formation: a slush-flow model
Published:January 01, 2019
Katherine S. Auld, John C. Dixon, 2019. "An experimental investigation into Martian gully formation: a slush-flow model", 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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To understand the potential applicability of the process of ‘slush flow’ (a sediment-carrying flow with water and ice) to gullies on Mars, we undertook a series of flume experiments at Earth surface temperatures and pressures, which we subsequently scaled for Mars. Experiments were conducted in a 3 × 0.5 m hinged flume filled with medium-grain-size sand. The experiments were performed over a slope angle range of 10°–30°, corresponding to the slope range for gullies observed on Mars. A water ice mix, or ‘slush’, was flowed through a 19 mm-diameter silicone hose and released onto the surface at the top of the slope. A variety of morphometric parameters were measured on each form produced in the flume. The forms produced in our experiments developed the three principal morphological components of Martian gullies: alcove, channel and apron, and had a diversity of planimetric forms. The forms produced during simulations compared well to slush flows in terrestrial arctic climates, and open up the possibility that some Martian gullies may result from slush flows associated with the thawing of permafrost-active layers or surface frost under favourable thermal regimes.
Supplementary material: A complete spreadsheet of all measurements summarized in Figures 5 and 6 is available at https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.3930613
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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.