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Volcanic terrain and the possible periglacial formation of “excess ice” at the mid-latitudes of Utopia Planitia, Mars

Soare, R. J.; Horgan, B.; Conway, S. J.; Souness, C. and El-Maarry, M. R. (2015). Volcanic terrain and the possible periglacial formation of “excess ice” at the mid-latitudes of Utopia Planitia, Mars. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 423 pp. 182–192.

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DOI (Digital Object Identifier) Link: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.epsl.2015.04.033
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Abstract

At the mid-latitudes of Utopia Planitia (UP), Mars, a suite of spatially-associated landforms exhibit geomorphological traits that, on Earth, would be consistent with periglacial processes and the possible freeze–thaw cycling of water. The suite comprises small-sized polygonally-patterned ground, polygon-junction and -margin pits, and scalloped, rimless depressions. Typically, the landforms incise a dark-toned terrain that is thought to be ice-rich. Here, we investigate the dark-toned terrain by using high resolution images from the HiRISE as well as near-infrared spectral-data from the OMEGA and CRISM. The terrain displays erosional characteristics consistent with a sedimentary nature and near-infrared spectra characterised by a blue slope similar to that of weathered basaltic-tephra. We also describe volcanic terrain that is dark-toned and periglacially-modified in the Kamchatka mountain-range of eastern Russia. The terrain is characterised by weathered tephra inter-bedded with snow, ice-wedge polygons and near-surface excess ice. The excess ice forms in the pore space of the tephra as the result of snow–melt infiltration and, subsequently, in-situ freezing. Based on this possible analogue, we construct a three-stage mechanism that explains the possible ice-enrichment of a broad expanse of dark-toned terrain at the mid-latitudes of UP: (1) the dark-toned terrain accumulates and forms via the regional deposition of sediments sourced from explosive volcanism; (2) the volcanic sediments are blanketed by atmospherically-precipitated (H2O) snow, ice or an admixture of the two, either concurrent with the volcanic-events or between discrete events; and, (3) under the influence of high obliquity or explosive volcanism, boundary conditions tolerant of thaw evolve and this, in turn, permits the migration, cycling and eventual formation of excess ice in the volcanic sediments. Over time, and through episodic iterations of this scenario, excess ice forms to decametres of depth.

Item Type: Journal Item
Copyright Holders: 2015 Elsevier B.V.
ISSN: 0012-821X
Project Funding Details:
Funded Project NameProject IDFunding Body
Wet, moist, or dry? Using digital terrain models to determine the amount of water that has shaped the surfaces of Earth, Mars and the Moon. (SE-10-183-MB)RPG-397The Leverhulme Trust
Keywords: Mars; martian climate; martian atmosphere; martian surface
Academic Unit/School: Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) > Physical Sciences
Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)
Item ID: 44428
Depositing User: Susan Conway
Date Deposited: 25 Sep 2015 09:27
Last Modified: 24 Jun 2019 22:53
URI: http://oro.open.ac.uk/id/eprint/44428
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