Studies of Glacial and Periglacial Environments on Mars

Ramsdale, Jason David (2017). Studies of Glacial and Periglacial Environments on Mars. PhD thesis The Open University.



This thesis presents the development and application of a grid-based mapping approach that provides an efficient solution to the problems of mapping small landforms over large areas. The approach allows the cataloguing of landform classes, of multiple sizes, efficiently in a single pass. The speed at which the data could be recorded allowed for the first continuous, full resolution mapping of decametre-scale landforms in CTX images on hemispherical-scale maps. The discrete, tabular nature of grid mapping opens up the possibility of citizen science meaning the grid mapping approach could have considerable future use and impact.

The main scientific goal of this thesis was to determine the distribution and origins of ice-related landforms in the northern plains, and provide insight as to whether these landforms are related to distinct geological or geomorphological units. To accomplish this, I used the grid mapping approach to explore a large tract covering the Arcadia Planitia region of the northern plains of Mars. In addition, I was able to compare these results to two other sister studies performed in the Utopia and Acidalia Planitia regions of Mars.

To explore possible sources of ice I performed a detailed study of the Rahway Vallis system. This found an assemblage of terraces, channels and sinuous ridges in Rahway Vallis that are topographically and morphologically consistent with either a draining lake, or a melting, once liquid, ice-body, and is indicative of a flow of volatiles into the northern plains and large scale shifts in ground ice stability.

Overall, this thesis demonstrates the dominant effects of the deposition and sublimation of the Latitude Dependent Mantle in shaping recent landscapes on the northern plains of Mars. There was little evidence for thaw-related landforms, and evidence for a fluvial origin for ice in the near surface is circumstantial, or has been erased or covered.

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