Martian permafrost features


  • Michael H. Carr,

  • Gerald G. Schaber


The outgassing history of Mars and the prevailing temperature conditions suggest that ground ice may occur to depths of kilometers over large areas of the planet. The presence of permafrost is also indicated by several topographic features that resemble those found in periglacial regions of the earth. East of Hellas and in the Protonilus and Nilosyrtis regions there are features that resemble those formed on earth by gelifluction, the slow creep of near-surface materials aided by freeze-thaw of ground ice. In the south part of Chryse Planitia there are irregular depressions that resemble thermokarst features, and the pattern of tributaries to the equatorial canyons is suggestive of a sapping process that would result from the melting of ground ice. The morphology of ejecta around fresh Martian impact craters is distinctively different from that around lunar and Mercurian craters. Such differences could be ascribed to the presence of ground ice in the target materials. The convergence of these different observations supports permafrost conditions not only at present but also for much of the planet's history.