Tropical to mid-latitude snow and ice accumulation, flow and glaciation on Mars

Abstract

Images from the Mars Express HRSC (High-Resolution Stereo Camera) of debris aprons at the base of massifs in eastern Hellas reveal numerous concentrically ridged lobate and pitted features and related evidence of extremely ice-rich glacier-like viscous flow and sublimation. Together with new evidence for recent ice-rich rock glaciers at the base of the Olympus Mons scarp superposed on larger Late Amazonian debris-covered piedmont glaciers, we interpret these deposits as evidence for geologically recent and recurring glacial activity in tropical and mid-latitude regions of Mars during periods of increased spin-axis obliquity when polar ice was mobilized and redeposited in microenvironments at lower latitudes. The data indicate that abundant residual ice probably remains in these deposits and that these records of geologically recent climate changes are accessible to future automated and human surface exploration.

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Figure 1: Massif and debris-apron deposits on the eastern rim of the Hellas basin (262.8° W, -43.2°).
Figure 2: Hourglass-shaped deposit at the base of a massif on the eastern Hellas basin rim (257° W, -39.2°).
Figure 3: Deposits from a recent lobate rock glacier at the base of the Olympus Mons scarp (138° W, 18°).
Figure 4: Ages of events in the lobate debris aprons.

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Acknowledgements

We thank S. Pratt, A. Cote and J. Dickson for help in data analysis and manuscript preparation, T. Roatsch for data handling, calibration and commanding, F. Scholten and K. Gwinner for photogrammetric processing, and V. Baker for a review. We thank the European Space Agency, DLR (German Aerospace Center), and the Freie Universitaet, Berlin, for their efforts in building and flying the HSRC experiment, and processing the data, and NASA for supporting the participation of J.W.H.

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Correspondence to J. W. Head.

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The authors declare that they have no competing financial interests.

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

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Head, J., Neukum, G., Jaumann, R. et al. Tropical to mid-latitude snow and ice accumulation, flow and glaciation on Mars. Nature 434, 346–351 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature03359

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