Mid-latitude glaciation on Mars

Type Article
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)238-261
JournalProgress in Physical Geography
Volume36
Issue number2
DOI
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2012
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Abstract

Near-surface water ice, either pure or mixed with regolith, forms a widespread suite of distinctive landforms in Mars’ mid-latitudes. These landforms are in many cases sufficiently similar to cryospheric features on Earth to allow analogue-based comparisons to be made. However, our understanding of glacial processes in Mars’ subpolar latitudes remains far from complete, and crucial fundamental issues remain unresolved. These include basic glaciological information such as the internal physical and thermal structure of martian ice masses, whether (and how) those ice masses move, and the nature of any mass-balance regime they are subject to. Addressing these issues is complicated by the fact that any current knowledge, being based overwhelmingly on the visual interpretation of remotely sensed images, is insufficient to determine the extent to which these landforms are currently active or relict. Addressing these issues would contribute not only to our understanding of Mars’ current landscape but also to our knowledge of Mars’ long-term climatic variability and to our awareness of where and in what form H2O exists on Mars – information that would be of value to future space missions. The aim of this review is to bring the state of knowledge regarding mid-latitude glaciation on Mars to the attention of the wider research community. As background, we provide an overview of the geological and planetary framework within which Mars’ mid-latitude ice was deposited. We then define and describe the various ice-related landforms that have been identified within Mars’ mid-latitudes, and we review the processes that have been proposed to explain the origin and physical characteristics of those landforms. Finally, we present what we consider to be key avenues for further research.