UKPF 2014 (Ramsdale)

Submitted to: UKPF Early Career Planetary Scientists’ Meeting.

“Mapping the northern plains of Mars: origins, evolution and response to climate change” – a new ISSI (International Space Science Institute) international team project.

 Jason Ramsdale, Open University, UK; Matthew Balme, Open University, UK; Susan Conway, Open University, UK; François Costard, Université de Paris Sud, France; Colman Gallagher, University College Dublin, Ireland; Stephan van Gasselt, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany; Ernst Hauber, DLR-Institut für Planetenforschung, Germany; Andreas Johnsson, University of Gothenburg, Sweden; Akos Kereszturi, Research Center for Astronomy and Earth Science, Hungary; Thomas Platz, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany; Dennis Reiss, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster, Germany; Antoine Séjourné, Université de Paris Sud, France; James Skinner, US Geological Survey, USA; Zuzanna Swirad, Scott Polar Research Institute, UK

 An ISSI (International Space Science Institute) international team has been convened for a new geomorphological mapping study of the main lowland provinces that compose the northern plains of Mars. The northern plains of Mars are extensive, geologically young, low-lying areas that contrast in age and relief to Mars’ older, heavily cratered, southern highlands. Mars’ northern plains are characterised by a wealth of landforms and landscapes that have been inferred to be related to the presence of ice or ice-rich material near, beneath, or at the surface. Such landforms include ‘scalloped’ pits and depressions, polygonally-patterned grounds, and viscous flow features similar in form to terrestrial glacial or ice-sheet landforms.

 The northern plains comprise three linked zones: Acidalia Planitia, Utopia Planitia and Arcadia Planitia. Each region consists of a shallow basin, with the three areas are separated by low topographic divides. Our aim is to study the ice-related geomorphology of each region in order to understand the origins, evolution and response to climate change of ice on Mars. In particular, by comparing and contrasting the three separate basins we hope to determine if the processes that created the ice-related terrains are regional (perhaps basin limited) or global in scope, and whether the differing geology of each basin has an effect on the ice-related features observed there.

 We present preliminary results for the Arcadia Planitia study area: a 250 km wide strip centred on -170° longitude. We have used CTX (5-6 m/pixel) and HRSC (colour and nadir, ~12.5-50 m/pixel) images for the majority of the mapping, supported by higher resolution HiRISE (25 cm/pixel) and MOC (~2 m/pixel) images. We present our preliminary findings on the spatial distribution of landforms thought to be indicative of ground-ice in the regolith and the types of materials in which these forms occur. Landforms identified by preliminary mapping thus far include; possible glacial features (lobate debris aprons, linear valley fill, lineated ground, and possible glacial grooves etched into outlying bedrock), pedestal craters with double layered ejecta up to 10x the crater diameter, thumbprint type terrain, polygonal ground, channel-like forms, platey ridge material inferred by some to be lava flows (e.g. Plescia, 2003) and others to be a frozen sea (Murray et al., 2005). We will present a South-North transition of landforms along with projected outputs for the project.


Murray, J.B., Muller, J.-P., Neukum, G., Hauber, E., Markiewicz, W.J., Head, J.W., Foing, B.H., Page, D.P., Mitchell, K.L., Portyankina, G., 2005. Evi-dence from theMars ExpressHigh Resolution Stereo Camera for a frozen sea close to Mars’ equator. Nature 434, 352–355.

Plescia, J.B., 2003. Cerberus Fossae, Elysium, Mars: A source for lava and water. Icarus 164, 79–95.