Orbital radar, imagery, and atmospheric modeling reveal an aeolian origin for Abalos Mensa, Mars

T. C. Brothers, J. W. Holt, A. Spiga

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Icy deposits surrounding Planum Boreum, Mars, contain crucial information for deciphering paleoclimate and past geologic processes at the martian north pole. One such deposit, Abalos Mensa, is an enigmatic wedge of material located near the ~ 1 km high Rupes Tenuis. Its unique location and lobate morphology have fostered formation hypotheses that assume either fluvial or aeolian erosion of a once-larger ice deposit. The aeolian scenario posed previously requires impact shielding of ancient basal unit material to provide an erosional remnant which seeds later deposition, while the fluvial hypotheses invoke cryovolcanism beneath the younger north polar layered deposits (NPLD) and associated outflow to erode the adjacent chasmata. Here we combine newly available radar sounding data, high-resolution imagery, digital elevation models, and atmospheric modeling to examine internal structure and infer both the mechanisms for, and timing of, Abalos Mensa formation. From this integrative approach, we conclude that Abalos Mensa formed as a distinct feature via atmospheric deposition following erosion of Rupes Tenuis and grew concurrently with the rest of Planum Boreum as the NPLD accumulated. The required processes are consistent with those observed today: no exotic phenomena (cryovolcanism, fluvial activity, or impact shielding) appear necessary to explain the formation of Abalos Mensa. Key Points Formation of Abalos Mensa is consistent with aeolian processes Combination of radar data, imagery improve scientific investigation of Mars Atmospheric modeling using paleo-topography is a novel, useful approach

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1334-1339
Number of pages6
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 16 2013


  • Abalos Mensa
  • Mars
  • aeolian
  • deposit
  • ice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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