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Subsurface volatile content of martian double-layer ejecta (DLE) craters

March 1, 2017

Excess ice is widespread throughout the martian mid-latitudes, particularly in Arcadia Planitia, where double-layer ejecta (DLE) craters also tend to be abundant. In this region, we observe the presence of thermokarstically-expanded secondary craters that likely form from impacts that destabilize a subsurface layer of excess ice, which subsequently sublimates. The presence of these expanded craters shows that excess ice is still preserved within the adjacent terrain. Here, we focus on a 15-km DLE crater that contains abundant superposed expanded craters in order to study the distribution of subsurface volatiles both at the time when the secondary craters formed and, by extension, remaining today. To do this, we measure the size distribution of the superposed expanded craters and use topographic data to calculate crater volumes as a proxy for the volumes of ice lost to sublimation during the expansion process. The inner ejecta layer contains craters that appear to have undergone more expansion, suggesting that excess ice was most abundant in that region. However, both of the ejecta layers had more expanded craters than the surrounding terrain. We extrapolate that the total volume of ice remaining within the entire ejecta deposit is as much as 74 km3 or more. The variation in ice content between the ejecta layers could be the result of (1) volatile preservation from the formation of the DLE crater, (2) post-impact deposition in the form of ice lenses; or (3) preferential accumulation or preservation of subsequent snowfall. We have ruled out (2) as the primary mode for ice deposition in this location based on inconsistencies with our observations, though it may operate in concert with other processes. Although none of the existing DLE formation hypotheses are completely consistent with our observations, which may merit a new or modified mechanism, we can conclude that DLE craters contain a significant quantity of excess ice today.

Publication Year 2017
Title Subsurface volatile content of martian double-layer ejecta (DLE) craters
DOI 10.1016/j.icarus.2016.11.031
Authors Donna Viola, Alfred S. McEwen, Colin M. Dundas, Shane Byrne
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Icarus
Index ID 70188371
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Astrogeology Science Center