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Transport processes induced by metastable boiling water under Martian surface conditions

Massé, M.; Conway, S. J.; Gargani, J.; Patel, M. R.; Pasquon, K.; McEwen, A.; Carpy, S.; Chevrier, V.; Balme, M.R.; Ojha, L.; Vincendon, M.; Poulet, F.; Costard, F. and Jouannic, G. (2016). Transport processes induced by metastable boiling water under Martian surface conditions. Nature Geoscience, 9 pp. 425–428.

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Liquid water may exist on the Martian surface today, albeit transiently and in a metastable state under the low atmospheric surface pressure1, 2. However, the identification of liquid water on Mars from observed morphological changes is hampered by our limited understanding of how metastable liquids interact with sediments. Here, we present lab experiments in which a block of ice melts and seeps into underlying sediment, and the resulting downslope fluid propagation and sediment transport are tracked. In experiments at Martian surface pressure, we find that pure water boils as it percolates into the sediment, inducing grain saltation and leading to wholesale slope destabilization: a hybrid flow mechanism involving both wet and dry processes. For metastable brines, which are more stable under Martian conditions than pure water, saltation intensity and geomorphological impact are reduced; however, we observed channel formation in some briny flow experiments that may be analogous to morphologies observed on Mars. In contrast, under terrestrial-like experimental conditions, there is little morphological impact of seeping water or brine, which are both stable. We propose that the hybrid flow mechanism operating in our experiments under Martian surface pressure could explain observed Martian surface changes that were originally interpreted as the products of either dry or wet processes.

Item Type: Journal Item
Copyright Holders: 2016 Macmillan Publishers Ltd.
ISSN: 1752-0908
Project Funding Details:
Funded Project NameProject IDFunding Body
Support for Science Co-I's on the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter Instruments. (SM-10-074-MP)ST/I003061/1STFC (Science & Technology Facilities Council)
Understanding Planet Mars With Advanced Remote-sensing Datasets and Synergistic studiesNot SetEC (European Commission): FP (inc.Horizon2020 & ERC schemes)
Academic Unit/School: Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) > Physical Sciences
Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)
Item ID: 46207
Depositing User: Manish Patel
Date Deposited: 05 May 2016 13:17
Last Modified: 31 May 2019 11:10
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