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Modeled subglacial water flow routing supports localized intrusive heating as a possible cause of basal melting of Mars' south polar ice cap

Arnold, Neil S.; Conway, Susan J.; Butcher, Frances E. G and Balme, Matthew R. (2019). Modeled subglacial water flow routing supports localized intrusive heating as a possible cause of basal melting of Mars' south polar ice cap. Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, 124(8) pp. 2101–2116.

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The discovery of an ~20‐km‐wide area of bright subsurface radar reflections, interpreted as liquid water, beneath the Martian south polar layered deposits (SPLD) in data from the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding (MARSIS) instrument, and the discovery of two geologically recent potential eskers (landforms produced by subglacial melt) associated with viscous flow features in Martian midlatitudes, has suggested recent basal melting of Martian ice deposits may be feasible, possibly due to locally elevated geothermal heating. Locations of terrestrial subglacial lakes and major drainage axes have been successfully predicted from subglacial hydraulic potential surfaces calculated from surface topography and ice thickness. Here, we use surface topography from the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter and SPLD bed elevations derived from MARSIS data to calculate the subglacial hydraulic potential surface beneath the SPLD and determine whether the observed high reflectance area coincides with predicted subglacial lake locations. Given the sensitivity of terrestrial predictions of lake locations to basal topography, we derive over 1,000 perturbed topographies (using noise statistics from the MARSIS data) to infer the most likely locations of possible subglacial water bodies and drainage axes. Our results show that the high reflectance area does not coincide with any substantial predicted lake locations; three nearby lake locations are robustly predicted however. We interpret this result as suggesting that the high reflectance area (assuming the interpretation as liquid is correct) is most likely a hydraulically isolated patch of liquid confined by the surrounding cold‐based ice, rather than a topographically‐constrained subglacial lake.

Item Type: Journal Item
Copyright Holders: 2019 American Geophysical Union
ISSN: 2169-9097
Project Funding Details:
Funded Project NameProject IDFunding Body
STFC DTG 2015 - 2016 (2015 Intake)ST/N50421X/1STFC Science & Technology Facilities Council
Keywords: Mars; Water on Mars; Glacier; Glaciation; Ice on Mars; Mars polar cap; Subglacial lake; Glacier hydrology; Remote sensing; Planetary
Academic Unit/School: Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) > Physical Sciences
Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)
Research Group: Space
Related URLs:
Item ID: 62568
Depositing User: Frances Butcher
Date Deposited: 26 Jul 2019 08:52
Last Modified: 26 Jan 2020 12:00
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