Recent and episodic volcanic and glacial activity on Mars revealed by the High Resolution Stereo Camera

Abstract

The large-area coverage at a resolution of 10–20 metres per pixel in colour and three dimensions with the High Resolution Stereo Camera Experiment on the European Space Agency Mars Express Mission has made it possible to study the time-stratigraphic relationships of volcanic and glacial structures in unprecedented detail and give insight into the geological evolution of Mars. Here we show that calderas on five major volcanoes on Mars have undergone repeated activation and resurfacing during the last 20 per cent of martian history, with phases of activity as young as two million years, suggesting that the volcanoes are potentially still active today. Glacial deposits at the base of the Olympus Mons escarpment show evidence for repeated phases of activity as recently as about four million years ago. Morphological evidence is found that snow and ice deposition on the Olympus construct at elevations of more than 7,000 metres led to episodes of glacial activity at this height. Even now, water ice protected by an insulating layer of dust may be present at high altitudes on Olympus Mons.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: Investigated volcanic calderas.
Figure 2: Hecates Tholus counting-area.
Figure 3: Olympus Mons western scarp areas.
Figure 4: Ice–dust deposits and glaciers on Olympus Mons.
Figure 5: Base map (panels ae) and crater statistics (four panels at bottom) of the areas on the northwestern part of Olympus Mons investigated for possible ice–dust coverage and age relationships.

References

  1. 1

    Neukum, G., Jaumann, R. & the HRSC Co-Investigator and Experiment Team. HRSC—The High Resolution Stereo Camera of Mars Express 17–35 (European Space Agency Special Publication ESA SP-1240, 2004)

    Google Scholar 

  2. 2

    Malin, M. C. & Edgett, K. S. Mars Global Surveyor Mars Orbiter Camera: Interplanetary cruise through primary mission. J. Geophys. Res. 106, 23429–23570 (2001)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3

    Neukum, G., Ivanov, B. A. & Hartmann, W. K. Cratering record in the inner Solar System in relation to the lunar reference system. Space Sci. Rev. 96, 55–86 (2001)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4

    Ivanov, B. A. Mars/Moon cratering rate ratio estimates. Space Sci. Rev. 96, 87–104 (2001)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5

    Hartmann, W. K. & Neukum, G. Cratering chronology and the evolution of Mars. Space Sci. Rev. 96, 165–194 (2001)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6

    Neukum, G. & Hiller, K. Martian ages. J. Geophys. Res. 86, 3097–3121 (1981)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7

    Tanaka, K. The stratigraphy of Mars. J. Geophys. Res. 91, E139–E158 (1986)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8

    Greeley, R. & Spudis, P. D. Volcanism on Mars. Rev. Geophys. Space Phys. 19, 13–41 (1981)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9

    Hartmann, W. K. et al. Recent volcanism on Mars from crater counts. Nature 397, 586–589 (1999)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10

    Steinberger, B. Plumes in a convecting mantle: Models and observations for individual hotspots. J. Geophys. Res. 105, 11127–11152 (2000)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11

    Crumpler, L. C., Head, J. W. & Aubele, J. C. Calderas on Mars: Characteristics, structure and associated flank deformation. In Volcano Instability on the Earth and Planets (eds McGuire, W. J., Jones, A. P. & Neuberg, J.) Geol. Soc. Spec. Pub. 110, 307–348 (1996).

  12. 12

    Wilson, L., Scott, E. D. & Head, J. W. Evidence for episodicity in the magma supply to the large Tharsis volcanoes. J. Geophys. Res. 106, 1423–1433 (2001)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13

    Hauber, E. et al. The calderas on Mars—magmatic and tectonic characteristics as revealed through images of the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on Mars Express. Eur. Geophys. Union 1st Gen. Assembly (abstr.) EGU04-A-07922 (2004).

  14. 14

    Nyquist, L. E. et al. Ages and geologic histories of Martian meteorites. Space Sci. Rev. 96, 105–164 (2001)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15

    Crumpler, L. S. & Aubele, J. C. Structural evolution of Arsia Mons, Pavonis Mons and Ascraeus Mons: Tharsis region of Mars. Icarus 34, 496–511 (1978)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  16. 16

    Carr, M. Water on Mars 229 (Oxford Univ. Press, New York, 1996)

    Google Scholar 

  17. 17

    Lucchitta, B. K. Mars and Earth: Comparison of cold climate features. Icarus 45, 264–303 (1981)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  18. 18

    Laskar, J. et al. Long term evolution and chaotic diffusion of the insolation quantities of Mars. Icarus 170, 343–364 (2004)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  19. 19

    Richardson, M. I. & Wilson, J. R. Investigation of the nature and stability of the Martian seasonal water cycle with a general circulation model. J. Geophys. Res. 107 doi:10.1029/2001JE001536 (2002)

  20. 20

    Haberle, R. M., Murphy, J. R. & Schaeffer, J. Orbital change experiments with a Mars general circulation model. Icarus 162, 66–89 (2003)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  21. 21

    Mouginis-Mark, P. J., Wilson, L. & Head, J. W. Explosive volcanism on Hecates Tholus, Mars: Investigation of eruption conditions. J. Geophys. Res. 87, 9890–9904 (1982)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  22. 22

    Gulick, V. C. & Baker, V. R. Origin and evolution of valleys on Martian volcanoes. J. Geophys. Res. 95, 14325–14344 (1990)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  23. 23

    Hauber, E. et al. Discovery of a flank caldera and very young and glacial activity at Hecates Tholus, Mars, in Mars Express HRSC images. Nature (submitted)

  24. 24

    Murray, J. B. Evidence from the Mars Express High Resolution Stereo Camera for a frozen sea close to Mars' equator. Nature (2004) (submitted)

  25. 25

    Milkovich, S. M. & Head, J. W. Olympus Mons fan-shaped deposit morphology: Evidence for debris glaciers. 6th Int. Mars Conf. (abstr.) 3149 (2003).

  26. 26

    Head, J. W. et al. Recent ice ages on Mars. Nature 426, 792–802 (2003)

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  27. 27

    Harris, S. A. The aureole of Olympus Mons. J. Geophys. Res. 82, 3099–3107 (1977)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  28. 28

    Lopes, R., Hiller, K., Neukum, G. & Guest, J. E. Further evidence of the Olympus Mons Aureole. J. Geophys. Res 87, 9917–9928 (1982)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  29. 29

    Baker, V. R. The Channels of Mars (Austin Univ. of Texas Press, Austin, 1982)

    Google Scholar 

  30. 30

    McCord, T. et al. The color capabilities of the Mars Express High Resolution Stereo Camera. Eur. Geophys. Union 1st Gen. Assembly (abstr.) EGU04-A-06358 (2004).

  31. 31

    Bibring, J.-P., et al. OMEGA: Observatoire pour la Mineralogie, l'Eau, les Glaces et l'Activite. 37–49 (European Space Agency Special Publication ESA SP-1240, 2004)

    Google Scholar 

  32. 32

    Banin, A., Clark, B. C. & Waenke, H. in Mars (eds Kiefer, H. H., Jakosky, B. M., Snyder, C. W. & Matthews, M. S.) 594–625 (Univ. Arizona Press, Tucson, 1992)

    Google Scholar 

  33. 33

    Head, J. W. et al. Recent mid-latitude glaciation on Mars: Evidence for snow and ice accumulation and flow in Mars Express HRSC data. Nature (in the press)

  34. 34

    Kossacki, K. J., Komle, N. I., Leliwa-Kopystynski, J. & Kargel, G. Laboratory investigation of the evolution of cometary analogs: results and interpretation. Icarus 128, 127–144 (1997)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  35. 35

    Kossacki, K. J., Markiewicz, W. J., Skorov, Y. V. & Komle, N. I. Sublimation coefficient of water ice under simulated cometary-like conditions. Planet. Space Sci. 47, 1521–1530 (1999)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  36. 36

    Skorov, Y. V., Markiewicz, W. J., Basilevsky, A. T. & Keller, H. U. Stability of water ice under a porous nonvolatile layer: implications to the south polar layered deposits of Mars. Planet. Space Sci. 49, 59–63 (2001)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  37. 37

    Picardi, G., et al. MARSIS: Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding. 51–69 (European Space Agency Special Publication ESA SP-1240, 2004)

    Google Scholar 

  38. 38

    Bibring, J. P. et al. Perennial water ice identified in the south polar cap of Mars. Nature 428, 627–630 (2004)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

We thank U. Wolf for help with the crater size-frequency distribution measurements and age evaluation, as well as W. Zuschneid and O. Fabel for their technical assistance and T. Denk for support in the colour data reduction effort. We also thank the ESTEC and ESOC staff, and the DLR Experiment and Operations team, especially T. Roatsch, K.-D. Matz, V. Mertens, J. Flohrer, F. Scholten, and K. Gwinner. J. Korteniemi, M. Aittola, P. Kostama and D. Williams helped with the image planning. This work forms part of the HRSC Experiment of the ESA Mars Express Mission and has been supported by the German Space Agency (DLR) on behalf of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). Part of the data evaluation is supported by a grant from the German Science Foundation (DFG) within the scope of the priority programme ‘Mars and the Terrestrial Planets’.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Consortia

Corresponding author

Correspondence to G. Neukum.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing financial interests.

Additional information

A list of all members of the HRSC Co-Investigator team and their affiliations appears at the end of the paper.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Table 1

Measured crater frequencies and derived absolute ages for Martian geologic units. (DOC 28 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Neukum, G., Jaumann, R., Hoffmann, H. et al. Recent and episodic volcanic and glacial activity on Mars revealed by the High Resolution Stereo Camera. Nature 432, 971–979 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature03231

Download citation

Further reading

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.

Search

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing