Evidence for ice flow prior to trough formation in the martian north polar layered deposits

Dale P. Winebrenner, Michelle R. Koutnik, Edwin D. Waddington, Asmin V. Pathare, Bruce C. Murray, Shane Byrne, Jonathan L. Bamber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


The relative importance of surface mass fluxes and ice flow in shaping the north polar layered deposits (NPLD), now or in the past, remains a fundamental and open question. Motivated by observation of an apparent ice divide on Gemina Lingula (also known as Titania Lobe), we propose a two-stage evolution leading to the present-day topography on that lobe of the NPLD. Ice flow approximately balances surface mass fluxes in the first stage, but in the second stage ice flow has minimal influence and topography is modified predominantly by the formation of troughs. We focus here on evidence for the first stage, by testing the fit of topography between troughs to an ice-flow model. We find that independent model fits on distinct flow paths closely match inter-trough topography, uniformly over a broad region on Gemina Lingula, with mutually consistent and physically reasonable fitting parameters. However, our model requires ice to occupy and flow in spaces where troughs currently incise the ice. We therefore infer that the troughs (and the distribution of mass balance that caused them) post-date deposition of the inter-trough material and its modification by flow. Because trough formation has apparently altered inter-trough topography very little, we infer that trough formation must have been rapid in comparison to the (still unknown) time-scale of flow since troughs began to form. We view the evidence for past flow as strong, but we do not think that topographic evidence alone can be conclusive. Observations of englacial stratigraphy using orbital sounding radars will yield conclusive tests of our inferred mechanism for the formation of inter-trough topography.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)90-105
Number of pages16
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 2008


  • Geophysics
  • Ices
  • Mars
  • polar caps

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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