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Glaciers flowed on ancient Mars, but slowly

By | 08/09/2022

Glaciers flowed on aboriginal Mars, only slowly

Mars’ depression gravity probable moved ice sheets differently from Globe, leaving a less eroded surface

7 September 2022

Considering of Mars’ unique conditions, its ancient glaciers likely flowed very slowly, according to a new written report in Geophysical Research Letters. A range of ice features exist on the Red Planet today.
Credit: NASA/JPL-CalTech/University of Arizona

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Laboratoire de Planétologie et Géosciences press contact:
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Contact data for the researchers:

Anna Grau Galofre, Laboratorie du Planétologie et Géosciences, Nantes, France,
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WASHINGTON — The weight and grinding motility of glaciers has carved distinctive valleys and fjords into Earth’s surface. Because Mars lacks similar landscapes, researchers believed ancient ice masses on the Red Planet must have been frozen firmly to the ground. New inquiry suggests they were not stuck in place, just just moved very slowly.

Motion is part of the definition of a glacier. On Globe, meltwater gathers below glaciers and ice sheets, lubricating the downhill slide of these rivers of water ice. The new study modeled how Mars’ depression gravity would bear upon the feedback between how fast an ice sheet slides and how h2o drains below the ice, finding under-ice channels would be likely to form and persist. Fast water drainage would increase friction at the interface of rock and water ice. This ways ice sheets on Mars likely moved, and eroded the ground under them, at exceedingly tiresome rates, fifty-fifty when h2o accumulated under the ice, the authors said.

The new written report was published in
Geophysical Research Letters, AGU’southward journal for loftier-bear upon, short-format reports with immediate implications spanning all World and space sciences.

“Water ice is incredibly non-linear. The feedbacks relating glacial motion, glacial drainage and glacial erosion would event in fundamentally unlike landscapes related to the presence of water under old water ice sheets on World and Mars,” said Anna Grau Galofre, a planetary scientist at Laboratoire de Planétologie et Géosciences (LPG/ CNRS/ Nantes Université/ Le Mans Université/ Universtié d’Angers) and the lead author of the new written report, conducted while she was a postdoc at Arizona Land University.

Although Mars does not take the obvious U-shaped valleys that marker World’s glacial landscapes, Grau Galofre said, researchers accept establish other geologic traces suggesting glacier-like ice masses in Mars’ past, including gravel ridges called eskers and potential subglacial channels.

“Whereas on Earth you would become drumlins, lineations, scouring marks and moraines, on Mars you lot would tend to get channels and esker ridges under an ice sheet of exactly the same characteristics,’’ Grau Galofre said.

Grau Galofre and her co-authors modeled the dynamics of two equivalent water ice sheets on Earth and Mars with the same thickness, temperature and subglacial water availability. They adapted the existing physical framework that describes the drainage of water accumulated under Earth’due south water ice sheets, coupled with ice motility dynamics, to model Martian conditions and larn whether the subglacial drainage would evolve toward efficient or inefficient drainage configurations, and what effect this configuration would have on glacial sliding velocity and erosion.

“Going from an early Mars with presence of surface liquid water, extensive water ice sheets and volcanism into the global cryosphere that Mars currently is, the interaction between ice masses and basal water must accept occurred at some point,’’ Grau Galofre said. “Information technology is but very difficult to believe that throughout 4 billion years of planetary history, Mars never adult the conditions to grow water ice sheets with presence of subglacial water, since it is a planet with all-encompassing water inventory, large topographic variations, presence of both liquid and frozen water, volcanism, [and is] situated further from the Sun than Earth.”

The findings of this modelling endeavour demonstrate how glacial water ice masses would bleed their basal meltwater much more efficiently on Mars than Earth, largely preventing whatever lubrication of the base of operations of ice sheets that would lead to fast sliding rates and enhanced glacial erosion. Indeed, typical lineated landforms found on Earth would not accept time to develop on Mars, according to this study.

The piece of work also has implications for the survival of possible ancient life forms on Mars, according to the authors. An ice canvas could provide a steady supply of h2o, protection and stability to any subglacial h2o bodies like lakes, shelter from solar radiation in the absence of a magnetic field, and insulation against farthermost temperature variations.

Glacial landscapes on Axel Heiberg Isle (Canadian Chill Archipelago) showing typical (glaciers) and atypical (subglacial channels, bottom correct) glacial landscapes.
Credit: A. Grau Galofre


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Notes for Journalists:

Download a PDF re-create of the paper hither. This newspaper is open admission. Neither the paper nor this press release is under embargo.

Paper title:

“Valley Networks and the Record of Glaciation on Ancient Mars”


  • Anna Grau Galofre, completed this work at the School of Earth and Space Exploration, Arizona Land University, Tempe, AZ, USA and Laboratorie du Planétologie et Géosciences/ CNRS UMR6112, Nantes Université, Nantes, France. Currently at the Laboratorie du Planétologie et Géosciences, Nantes, France
  • G.X. Whipple, School of Earth and Space Exploration, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, United states of america
  • P.R. Christensen, School of World and Space Exploration, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, USA
  • S.J. Conway, Laboratorie du Planétologie et Géosciences/ CNRS UMR6112, Nantes Université, Nantes, French republic

Joint press release

CNRS published a version of this release on 5 September. The French-language release is bachelor here.

Source: https://news.agu.org/press-release/glaciers-flowed-on-ancient-mars-but-slowly/