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Ice sculpture in the Martian outflow channels

November 30, 1982

Many landforms in Martian outflow channels have characteristics that suggest sculpture by glaciers, ice streams, or ice sheets. Viking Orbiter and terrestrial satellite images were examined at similar resolution to compare features of the Martian outflow channels to features produced by the movement of ice on earth. Many resemblances were found. They include the anastomoses, sinuosities, and U‐shaped cross profiles of valleys; hanging valleys; and linear scour marks on valley walls, grooves and ridges on valley floors, and streamlining of bedrock highs. The question of whether ice could have moved in the Martian environment is investigated. Since gradients on Martian channel floors are extremely low or even reversed, a certain thickness of ice is required to initiate glacial motion. If ice filled the Martian channels to the level of interior plateaus, flow could have occurred, even under present climatic conditions, although warmer climates in the past would have been more favorable. Additionally, if the channel fluids were brines, ice might have been wet based and would have moved readily by slipping over the ground. It is envisioned that springs or small catastrophic outbursts discharged fluids from structural outlets or chaotic terrains. The fluids built icings that may have grown into substantial masses and eventually flowed like glaciers down preexisting valleys. Alternatively, the fluids may have formed rivers or floods that formed ice jams and consolidated into icy masses in places where obstacles blocked their flow. These masses of ice or slush were probably episodic and temporary, but where they occurred within the channels, they may have produced landforms that are characteristic of glacial sculpture on earth.

Citation Information

Publication Year 1982
Title Ice sculpture in the Martian outflow channels
DOI 10.1029/JB087iB12p09951
Authors Baerbel K. Lucchitta
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Geophysical Research B: Solid Earth
Series Number
Index ID 70200532
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Astrogeology Science Center