Valley Networks and the Record of Glaciation on Ancient Mars

Geophys Res Lett. 2022 Jul 28;49(14):e2022GL097974. doi: 10.1029/2022GL097974. Epub 2022 Jul 25.


The lack of evidence for large-scale glacial landscapes on Mars has led to the belief that ancient glaciations had to be frozen to the ground. Here we propose that the fingerprints of Martian wet-based glaciation should be the remnants of the ice sheet drainage system instead of landforms generally associated with terrestrial ice sheets. We use the terrestrial glacial hydrology framework to interrogate how the Martian surface gravity affects glacial hydrology, ice sliding, and glacial erosion. Taking as reference the ancient southern circumpolar ice sheet that deposited the Dorsa Argentea formation, we compare the theoretical behavior of identical ice sheets on Mars and Earth and show that, whereas on Earth glacial drainage is predominantly inefficient, enhancing ice sliding and erosion, on Mars the lower gravity favors the formation of efficient subglacial drainage. The apparent lack of large-scale glacial fingerprints on Mars, such as drumlins or lineations, is to be expected.

Keywords: early Mars; glacial erosion; glacial geomorphology; ice; subglacial hydrology; valley networks.