Landforms indicative of ground-ice thaw in the northern high latitudes of Mars

Gallagher, C. J. and Balme, M. R. (2011). Landforms indicative of ground-ice thaw in the northern high latitudes of Mars. Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 356(1) pp. 87–110.



The confirmation of near-surface ground ice and perchlorates at the Phoenix landing site suggest that high-latitude ground-ice thaw may be more easily achieved than previously envisaged, providing the potential to drive significant, distinctive morphogenesis. We describe the results of a survey of 23 High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) images covering 337° of longitude between latitudes 59°N and 79°N in which such morphogenesis is apparent, confirming that thaw has been a regionally important morphological agent. Some of the strongest geomorphological indicators of cyclical ground-ice thaw described are assemblages of sorted landforms, including clastic patterned ground resulting from cryoturbation of ice-rich regolith and lobate forms reflecting solifluction. Also described are braided gully-fan systems sourced at thermokarst pits and channels that have evolved from enlarged thermal contraction cracks. Not only are these landforms indicative of thaw and flowing liquid but the incision of solifluction lobes by thermokarst gullies demonstrates that thaw has been responsible for polycyclic morphogenesis. The presence of these landforms across the high northern latitudes of Mars indicates that the regional importance of thaw has been underestimated. This in turn has important implications for the development of better climate models and the search for life on Mars.

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