Expanded secondary craters in the Arcadia Planitia region, Mars: Evidence for tens of Myr-old shallow subsurface ice

Donna Viola, Alfred S. McEwen, Colin M. Dundas, Shane Byrne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


A range of observations indicates widespread subsurface ice throughout the mid and high latitudes of Mars in the form of both pore-filling and excess ice. It is generally thought that this ice was recently emplaced and is not older than a hundred thousand to a few millions of years old based on ice stability and orbital-induced climate change. We analyze the distribution of subsurface ice in Arcadia Planitia, located in the northern mid latitudes, by mapping thermokarstically expanded secondary craters, providing additional evidence for extensive excess ice down to fairly low latitudes (less than 40°N). We further infer the minimum age of this subsurface ice based on the ages of the four primary craters that are thought to be the source of a large portion of these secondaries, which yields estimates on the order of tens of millions of years old - much more ancient than anticipated. This estimated ancient age suggests that ice can be preserved in the shallow subsurface for long periods of time, at least in some parts of Arcadia Planitia where expanded secondary craters are especially abundant. We estimate the amount of ice lost to sublimation during crater expansion based on measurements of expanded secondary craters in HiRISE Digital Terrain Models. The loss is equivalent to a volume of ice between ~140 and 360km3, which would correspond to a global layer of 1-2.5mm thick. We further argue that much more ice (at least 6000km3) is likely preserved beneath the un-cratered regions of Arcadia Planitia since significant loss of this excess ice would have caused extensive terrain dissection and the removal of the expanded secondary craters. Both the loss of ice due to secondary crater expansion and the presence of this ice today have implications for the martian climate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)190-204
Number of pages15
StatePublished - Mar 1 2015


  • Ices
  • Impact processes
  • Mars, climate
  • Mars, surface

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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