Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Seasonal erosion and restoration of Mars' northern polar dunes

January 1, 2011

Despite radically different environmental conditions, terrestrial and martian dunes bear a strong resemblance, indicating that the basic processes of saltation and grainfall (sand avalanching down the dune slipface) operate on both worlds. Here, we show that martian dunes are subject to an additional modification process not found on Earth: springtime sublimation of Mars' CO 2 seasonal polar caps. Numerous dunes in Mars' north polar region have experienced morphological changes within a Mars year, detected in images acquired by the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Dunes show new alcoves, gullies, and dune apron extension. This is followed by remobilization of the fresh deposits by the wind, forming ripples and erasing gullies. The widespread nature of these rapid changes, and the pristine appearance of most dunes in the area, implicates active sand transport in the vast polar erg in Mars' current climate.

Publication Year 2011
Title Seasonal erosion and restoration of Mars' northern polar dunes
DOI 10.1126/science.1197636
Authors C.J. Hansen, M. Bourke, Nathan T. Bridges, Shane Byrne, C. Colon, S. Diniega, Colin M. Dundas, Kenneth E. Herkenhoff, A. McEwen, M. Mellon, Ganna Portyankina, N. Thomas
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Science
Index ID 70037018
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Astrogeology Science Center