Martian subsurface cryosalt expansion and collapse as trigger for landslides

J. L. Bishop, M. Yeşilbaş, N. W. Hinman, Z. F.M. Burton, P. A.J. Englert, J. D. Toner, A. S. McEwen, V. C. Gulick, E. K. Gibson, C. Koeberl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


On Mars, seasonal martian flow features known as recurring slope lineae (RSL) are prevalent on sun-facing slopes and are associated with salts. On Earth, subsurface interactions of gypsum with chlorides and oxychlorine salts wreak havoc: instigating sinkholes, cave collapse, debris flows, and upheave. Here, we illustrate (i) the disruptive potential of sulfate-chloride reactions in laboratory soil crust experiments, (ii) the formation of thin films of mixed ice-liquid water “slush” at −40° to −20°C on salty Mars analog grains, (iii) how mixtures of sulfates and chlorine salts affect their solubilities in low-temperature environments, and (iv) how these salt brines could be contributing to RSL formation on Mars. Our results demonstrate that interactions of sulfates and chlorine salts in fine-grained soils on Mars could absorb water, expand, deliquesce, cause subsidence, form crusts, disrupt surfaces, and ultimately produce landslides after dust loading on these unstable surfaces.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbereabe4459
JournalScience Advances
Issue number6
StatePublished - Feb 3 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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