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Erosive flood events on the surface of Mars: application to Mangala and Athabasca Valles

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date04/2011
JournalIcarus
Journal number2
Volume212
Number of pages21
Pages520-540
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

We address key factors involved in determining water flow conditions in outflow channels on Mars, including the temperature of the sub-surface water being released and the environmental conditions of low temperature, low atmospheric pressure, and low acceleration due to gravity. We suggest how some of the assumptions made in previous work may be improved. Our model considers the thermodynamic effects of simultaneous evaporation and freezing of water, and fluid dynamical processes including changes in flow rheology caused by assimilation of cold rock and ice eroded at the channel bed, and ice crystal growth due to water freezing. We model how far initially turbulent water could flow in a channel before it erodes and entrains enough material to become laminar, and subsequently ceases to erode the bed. An ice raft will begin to form on the flood while transition occurs between turbulent and laminar flow. Estimates are given for water transit times, ∼17–19 h, initial water depths, 50–62 m, and average flow speeds, 5–12 m s−1, in the Mangala and Athabasca Valles. We show that these two outflow channels, and by implication others like them, could plausibly have been formed in single water release events. Resulting mean erosion rates are approximately 0.7 mm s−1, a factor of three greater than previous estimates based on combinations of estimates of flood duration and required water volumes. This is explained by the consideration of the effects of eroded ice and the physics of thermal erosion in the present study.