Abstract

The northern plains of Mars contain a vast deposit, covering one-sixth of the planet, that apparently resulted in extensive lithospheric deformation. The center of the deposit may be as much as 2–3 km thick. The deposit has lobate margins consistent with the flow of fluidized debris for hundreds to thousands of kilometers derived from highland and high-plains sources. The deposit surface lowers inward by ∼900 m in places and is locally bordered by a bulge ∼300 m high. Similar deformation accompanied development of Pleistocene ice sheets on Earth. The lack of burial of a large inlier of older terrain and the response time of the mantle to the loading require that the deposit was emplaced in <1000 yr, assuming that the deposit was originally flat. We account for what may have been the largest catastrophic erosional and/or depositional event in solar system history by invoking pore-filling subsurface CO2 as an active agent in the processes of source-rock collapse and debris flow.

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