Modeled Subglacial Water Flow Routing Supports Localized Intrusive Heating as a Possible Cause of Basal Melting of Mars' South Polar Ice Cap
Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets
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Arnold, N., Conway, S., Butcher, F., & Balme, M. (2019). Modeled Subglacial Water Flow Routing Supports Localized Intrusive Heating as a Possible Cause of Basal Melting of Mars' South Polar Ice Cap. Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, 124 (8), 2101-2116. https://doi.org/10.1029/2019JE006061
The discovery of a ~20 km wide area of bright subsurface radar reflections, interpreted as liquid water, beneath the Martian south polar layered deposits (SPLD) in data from the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding (MARSIS) instrument, and the discovery of two geologically recent potential eskers (landforms produced by subglacial melt) associated with viscous flow features in Martian mid-latitudes, has suggested recent basal melting of Martian ice deposits may be feasible, possibly due to locally elevated geothermal heating. Locations of terrestrial subglacial lakes and major drainage axes have been successfully predicted from subglacial hydraulic potential surfaces calculated from surface topography and ice thickness. Here, we use surface topography from the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter and SPLD bed elevations derived from MARSIS data to calculate the subglacial hydraulic potential surface beneath the SPLD and determine whether the observed high reflectance area coincides with predicted subglacial lake locations. Given the sensitivity of terrestrial predictions of lake locations to basal topography, we derive over 1000 perturbed topographies (using noise statistics from the MARSIS data) to infer the most likely locations of possible subglacial water bodies and drainage axes. Our results show that the high reflectance area does not coincide with any substantial predicted lake locations; three nearby lake locations are robustly predicted however. We interpret this result as suggesting that the high reflectance area (assuming the interpretation as liquid is correct) is most likely a hydraulically-isolated patch of liquid confined by the surrounding cold-based ice, rather than a topographically-constrained subglacial lake.
External DOI: https://doi.org/10.1029/2019JE006061
This record's URL: https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/294831
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