Earth-like sand fluxes on Mars

Abstract

Strong and sustained winds on Mars have been considered rare, on the basis of surface meteorology measurements and global circulation models1,2, raising the question of whether the abundant dunes and evidence for wind erosion seen on the planet are a current process. Recent studies3,4,5,6 showed sand activity, but could not determine whether entire dunes were moving—implying large sand fluxes—or whether more localized and surficial changes had occurred. Here we present measurements of the migration rate of sand ripples and dune lee fronts at the Nili Patera dune field. We show that the dunes are near steady state, with their entire volumes composed of mobile sand. The dunes have unexpectedly high sand fluxes, similar, for example, to those in Victoria Valley, Antarctica, implying that rates of landscape modification on Mars and Earth are similar.

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: Ripple migration, dune migration and dune elevation.
Figure 2: Linear correlation between ripple migration and dune height.
Figure 3: Dune migration rates.
Figure 4: Comparison of dune migration rates and sand flux on Mars and Earth.

References

  1. 1

    Arvidson, R. E., Guinness, E. A., Moore, H. J., Tillman, J. & Wall, S. D. Three Mars years: Viking Lander 1 imaging observations. Science 222, 463–468 (1983)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2

    Haberle, R. M., Murphy, J. R. & Schaeffer, J. Orbital change experiments with a Mars General Circulation Model. Icarus 161, 66–89 (2003)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3

    Silvestro, S., Fenton, L. K., Vaz, D. A., Bridges, N. T. & Ori, G. G. Ripple migration and dune activity on Mars: Evidence for dynamic processes. Geophys. Res. Lett. 37, L20203 (2010)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4

    Chojnacki, M., Burr, D. M., Moersch, J. E. & Michaels, T. I. Orbital observations of contemporary dune activity in Endeavour Crater, Meridiani Planum, Mars. J. Geophys. Res. 116, E00F19 (2011)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5

    Hansen, C. J. et al. Seasonal erosion and restoration of Mars’ northern polar dunes. Science 331, 575–578 (2011)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6

    Bridges, N. T. et al. Planet-wide sand motion on Mars. Geology 40, 31–34 (2012)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7

    Malin, M. C. & Edgett, K. S. Mars Global Surveyor Mars Orbiter Camera: Interplanetary cruise through primary mission. J. Geophys. Res. 106, 23,429–23,570 (2001)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8

    Laity, J. E. & Bridges, N. T. Ventifacts on Earth and Mars: Analytical, field, and laboratory studies supporting sand abrasion and windward feature development. Geomorphology 105, 202–217 (2009)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9

    Claudin, P. & Andreotti, B. A scaling law for aeolian dunes on Mars, Venus, Earth, and for subaqueous ripples. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 252, 30–44 (2006)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10

    Sullivan, R. et al. Wind-driven particle mobility on Mars: Insights from Mars Exploration Rover observations at “El Dorado” and surroundings at Gusev Crater. J. Geophys. Res. 113, E06S07 (2008)

    Google Scholar 

  11. 11

    Armstrong, J. C. & Leovy, C. B. Long-term wind erosion on Mars. Icarus 176, 57–74 (2005)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12

    Leprince, S., Barbot, S., Ayoub, F. & Avouac, J. P. Automatic and precise orthorectification, coregistration, and subpixel correlation of satellite images, application to ground deformation measurements. IEEE Trans. Geosci. Rem. Sens. 45, 1529–1558 (2007)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13

    Vermeesch, P. & Drake, N. Remotely sensed dune celerity and sand flux measurements of the world's fastest barchans (Bodélé, Chad). Geophys. Res. Lett. 35, L24404 (2008)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14

    McEwen, A. S. et al. The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) during MRO’s Primary Science Phase (PSP). Icarus 205, 2–37 (2010)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15

    Ould Ahmedou, D. et al. Barchan dune mobility in Mauritania related to dune and interdune sand fluxes. J. Geophys. Res. 112, F02016 (2007)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  16. 16

    Andreotti, B., Claudin, P. & Pouliquen, O. Aeolian sand ripples: experimental evidence of fully developed states. Phys. Rev. Lett. 96, 028001 (2006)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  17. 17

    Anderson, R. S. A theoretical model for aeolian impact ripples. Sedimentology 34, 943–956 (1987)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  18. 18

    Andreotti, B. A two-species model of aeolian sand transport. J. Fluid Mech. 510, 47–70 (2004)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  19. 19

    Bourke, M. C., Ewing, R. C., Finnegan, D. & McGowan, H. A. Sand dune movement in Victoria Valley, Antarctica. Geomorphology 109, 148–160 (2009)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  20. 20

    Fenton, L. K. &. M. i. c. h. a. e. l. s. T. J. Characterizing the sensitivity of daytime turbulent activity on Mars with the MRAMS LES: early results. Mars 5, 159–171 (2010)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  21. 21

    Fenton, L. J., Toigo, A. & Richardson, M. I. Aeolian processes in Proctor Crater on Mars: mesoscale modeling of dune-forming winds. J. Geophys. Res. 110, E06005 (2005)

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  22. 22

    Spiga, A. & Forget, F. A new model to simulate the Martian mesoscale and microscale atmospheric circulation: validation and first results. J. Geophys. Res. 114, E02009 (2009)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  23. 23

    Bagnold, R. A. The Physics of Blown Sand and Desert Dunes (Dover Publications, 1954)

    Google Scholar 

  24. 24

    Kok, J. F. Difference in the wind speeds required for initiation versus continuation of sand transport on Mars: implications for dunes and dust storms. Phys. Rev. Lett. 104, 074502 (2010)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  25. 25

    Greeley, R. et al. Rate of wind abrasion on Mars. J. Geophys. Res. 87, 10,009–10,024 (1982)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  26. 26

    Malin, M. C. Rates of geomorphic modification in ice-free areas, southern Victoria Land, Antarctica. Antarct. J. US 20, 18–21 (1986)

    Google Scholar 

  27. 27

    Golombek, M. P. et al. Erosion rates at the Mars Exploration Rover landing sites and long-term climate change on Mars. J. Geophys. Res. 111, E12S10 (2006)

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  28. 28

    Long, J. T. & Sharp, R. S. Barchan-dune movement in Imperial Valley, California. Geol. Soc. Am. Bull. 75, 149–156 (1964)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  29. 29

    Fryberger, S. et al. Wind sedimentation in the Jafurah sand sea, Saudi Arabia. Sedimentology 31, 413–431 (1984)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  30. 30

    Lancaster, N. Controls on aeolian activity: some new perspectives from the Kelso Dunes, Mojave Desert, California. J. Arid Environ. 27, 113–125 (1994)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

Discussions with R. Ewing, C. Narteau, and S. Silvestro on bedforms and R. Kirk on stereo data significantly improved this research. This research was supported by grants from NASA’s Mars Data Analysis Program, the Keck Institute for Space Studies, and seed funding from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Director's Research and Development Fund.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

N.T.B. is the principal investigator of the NASA MDAP grant that partially funded this work, chose the study area, defined major science questions, participated in data analysis, compared results to other Mars and terrestrial data, and led the writing of the paper. F.A. processed all the data with COSI-Corr, produced the figures and Supplementary Information ancillary materials, and played a major role in quantitative analysis and text writing. J-P.A. initiated the project, contributed fundamental ideas on sand flux and dune movement, supervised the data analysis and contributed to text writing. S.L. evaluated all COSI-Corr and quantitative results. A.L. provided expertise in interpretation of bedform movement and sand flux in regards to Mars surface evolution and climate models. S. M. produced the digital elevation model. All authors shared ideas and results and helped produce the final manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to N. T. Bridges.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

This file contains Supplementary Figures 1-4, Supplementary Methods, Supplementary Tables 1-2, Supplementary Text and Data and additional references. (PDF 3362 kb)

Supplementary Animation 1

This file contains an animated gif of a sub area of T1 and T2 illustrating the accurate bedrock registration and clear ripple migration. (GIF 369 kb)

Supplementary Animation 2

This file shows Lee front advance (label b on Figure 1) seen in 941 Earth days between image T2 and S1. Lee front advance and bedrock exposure on the stoss side can be observed (white arrows). (GIF 1384 kb)

Supplementary Movie 1

This movie shows the T1 image wrapped on the topography extracted from S1 and S2. Note the vertical exaggeration. (MPG 5152 kb)

Supplementary Movie 2

This movie shows the shaded bedrock-only topography. The bedrock was interpolated beneath the dunes following the method described in SOM Methods: Dune height extraction. (MP4 29559 kb)

PowerPoint slides

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Bridges, N., Ayoub, F., Avouac, JP. et al. Earth-like sand fluxes on Mars. Nature 485, 339–342 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature11022

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

Quick links

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