Landforms indicative of regional warm based glaciation, Phlegra Montes, Mars

Gallagher, Colman; Butcher, Frances E.G.; Balme, Matthew; Smith, Isaac and Arnold, Neil (2021). Landforms indicative of regional warm based glaciation, Phlegra Montes, Mars. Icarus, 355, article no. 114173.



Viscous flow features (VFF) occur in the mid-latitudes of Mars and have characteristics consistent with being glaciers. Climate models suggest that martian glaciers are cold-based systems in which meltwater has never been widely produced. VFF are common in Phlegra Montes, a mountain range in the mid-latitudes of the northern hemisphere of Mars. However, in Phlegra Montes, the presence of an esker associated with an extant Amazonian Period VFF provides evidence that warm-based glacial processes did formerly operate. The problem at the centre of this paper is that the glacial meltwater responsible for this esker could have been produced as a consequence of its setting in a graben, with locally enhanced geothermal heating having been the driver of melt, not systemic heating associated with a regional warm-based regime. Given this uncertainty, this paper aims to determine if there are indicators of more widespread warm-based glacial processes in Phlegra Montes. The paper briefly describes the distribution and characteristics of VFF across the region, before focussing on the search for key landforms considered diagnostic of erosion by warm-based glaciers. From our observations, including discriminant morphometrics, we conclude that the landscape of Phlegra Montes is indicative of widespread warm-based glacial processes, including subglacial scour, linear abrasion and the incision of subglacial meltwater channels. Our findings have significance in constraining the contexts and process environments within which liquid water has been produced during the Amazonian Period on Mars and point to several lines of future research into martian glaciation, climate and landscape evolution.

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