Sorted stone circles in Elysium Planitia, Mars: Implications for recent martian climate

Balme, M. R.; Gallagher, C. J.; Page, D. P.; Murray, J. B. and Muller, J.-P. (2009). Sorted stone circles in Elysium Planitia, Mars: Implications for recent martian climate. Icarus, 200(1) pp. 30–38.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.icarus.2008.11.010

Abstract

We have found sorted stone circles and polygons near the equator of Mars, using new 25 cm/pixel NASA HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) images. The sorted circles occur in geologically recent catastrophic flood deposits in the equatorial Elysium Planitia region, and are diagnostic of periglacial processes: sorted polygons do not form from volcanic activity, as has been suggested for non-sorted polygons in this region. These landforms indicate that (i) a long-lived, geologically recent, active cryoturbation layer of ground ice was present in the regolith, (ii) there was some degree of freeze–thaw, and thus (iii) there were sustained period(s), likely within the last 10 Ma, in which the martian climate was 40 to 60 K warmer than current models predict.

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