Mars: Abundant Recurring Slope Lineae (RSL) Following the Planet-Encircling Dust Event (PEDE) of 2018

Alfred S. McEwen, Ethan I. Schaefer, Colin M. Dundas, Sarah S. Sutton, Leslie K. Tamppari, Matthew Chojnacki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Recurring slope lineae (RSL) are dark linear markings on Mars that regrow annually and likely originate from the flow of either liquid water or granular material. Following the great dust storm (or planet-encircling dust event, PEDE) of Mars year (MY) 34, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter/High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment has seen many more candidate RSL than in typical Mars years. They have been imaged at more than 285 unique locations from August 2018 (when the atmosphere was clearing as the PEDE decayed) to August 2019, about half (157) of which are locations where RSL have not been documented previously. In MY34, 150 active RSL sites were identified in the southern middle latitudes (SML, -60° to -30°), whereas an average of 36 active sites were observed in each previous year (MY28–33). Post-PEDE RSL are also present during southern summer over a wider range of latitude, slope aspect, and Ls (areocentric longitude of the sun) than in prior years. These RSL sites usually show evidence for recent dust deposition: obscuration of relatively dark areas, an overall brighter and redder surface than in prior years, and dust devil tracks, which indicate dust lifting by several mechanisms. We speculate that dust-lifting processes may initiate and sustain RSL activity. The RSL may form from flows of dust (perhaps clumped) and/or sand that is destabilized by dust movement or directly mobilized by dust devils. If this is the case, then the otherwise puzzling recurrence and year-to-year variability of RSL activity can be at least partly explained. The dust replenishment varies from year to year, which could explain interannual variations in RSL activity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2020JE006575
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Planets
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2021


  • Mars atmosphere
  • Mars surface
  • eolian processes
  • geological processes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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