Ice in Channels and Ice-Rock Mixtures in Valleys on Mars : Did They Slide on Deformable Rubble Like Antarctic Ice Streams?.
- Lucchitta, B. K.
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- Recent studies of ice streams in Antarctica reveal a mechanism of basal motion that may apply to channels and valleys on Mars. The mechanism is sliding of the ice on deformable water-saturated till under high pore pressures. It has been suggested by Lucchitta that ice was present in outflow channels on Mars and gave them their distinctive morphology. This ice may have slid like Antarctic ice streams but on rubbly weathering products rather than till. However, to generate water under high pore pressures, elevated heatflow is needed to melt the base of the ice. Either volcanism or higher heatflow more than 2 b.y. ago could have raised the basal temperature. Regarding valley networks, higher heatflow 3 b.y. ago could have allowed sliding of ice-saturated overburden at a few hundred meters depth. If the original, pristine valleys were somewhat deeper than they are now, they could have formed by the same mechanism. Recent sounding of the seafloor in front of the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica reveals large persistent patterns of longitudinal megaflutes and drumlinoid forms, which bear remarkable resemblance to longitudinal grooves and highly elongated streamlined islands found on the floors of martian outflow channels. The flutes are interpreted to have formed at the base of ice streams during the last glacial advance. Additional similarities of Antarctic ice streams with martian outflow channels are apparent. Antarctic ice streams are 30 to 80 km wide and hundreds of kilometers long. Martian outflow channels have similar dimensions. Ice stream beds are below sea level. Carr determined that most common floor elevations of martian outflow channels lie below martian datum, which may have been close to or below past martian sea levels. The Antarctic ice stream bed gradient is flat and locally may go uphill, and surface slopes are exceptionally. Martian channels also have floor gradients that are shallow or go uphill locally and have low surface gradients. The depth to the bed in ice streams is 1 to 1.5 km. At bankful stage, the depth of the fluid in outflow channels was 1 to 2 km, according to the height of bordering scarps. The similarity between Antarctic ice streams and martian outflow channels suggests that ice may have flowed through and shaped the outflow channels, and that perhaps the mechanism of motion of Antarctic ice streams also operated in outflow channels. In addition, sliding on deformable rubble may explain the formation of small valley networks. The large Siple Coast Antarctic ice streams are thought to slide over longitudinally grooved, deforming till, where much of the movement is within the till. The till is saturated with water at high pore pressures that nearly supports all of the weight of the ice. The small differential between overburden pressure and pore pressure at the bed is more important than the volume of water, but water needs to be supplied to the till interface. For pore pressures to remain high, the ice streams have to act as a seal that blocks the flow of water through them, and the rock underneath has to be of low permeability to prevent the water from draining away.
- NASA Technical Reports Server (NTRS) Collection.
- Document ID: 19980107899., NAS 1.26:207702., NASA/CR-97-207702., 51-52., and Conference on Early Mars; 24-27 Apr. 1997; Houston, TX; United States.
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