Formation of recent martian debris flows by melting of near-surface ground ice at high obliquity.

Science 295(5552):110 (2002) PMID 11729267

The observation of small gullies associated with recent surface runoff on Mars has renewed the question of liquid water stability at the surface of Mars. The gullies could be formed by groundwater seepage from underground aquifers; however, observations of gullies originating from isolated peaks and dune crests question this scenario. We show that these landforms may result from the melting of water ice in the top few meters of the martian subsurface at high obliquity. Our conclusions are based on the analogy between the martian gullies and terrestrial debris flows observed in Greenland and numerical simulations that show that above-freezing temperatures can occur at high obliquities in the near surface of Mars, and that such temperatures are only predicted at latitudes and for slope orientations corresponding to where the gullies have been observed on Mars.

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