Geophysical Research Letters

Sub-surface CO2 gas flow in Mars' polar regions: Gas transport under constant production rate conditions

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Abstract

[1] Sublimation at the ice-substrate interface with pressure build-up is an accepted mechanism for the production of fan deposits on the southern polar CO2 ice cap on Mars. Fluid dynamics modeling has been used to investigate gas outflow through vents in a CO2 slab ice. Small (5–25 m in length) fan deposits seen on the annual southern CO2 ice cap can be produced by a steady-state in which open vents continuously outgas in response to sub-surface sublimation generated by diurnal energy input through translucent impermeable (to gas) ice slabs. This would produce diurnally-controlled deposits which would change orientation with time in response to winds thereby explaining observations made by HiRISE on MRO. Gas flow below the ice can reach up to 25 m/s close to the vent. Dust flow in the sub-ice cavity has also been computed but velocities are much lower with the main acceleration occurring <0.5 m from the vent. This indicates that erosion is likely to be restricted to the immediate vicinity of the vent unless channels form in the cavity between the ice and the surface.

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