Field Work

Figure 1: Pingo in Eskerdalen, Spitzbergen (photo: Hanne Christiansen, UNIS). Pingos are ice-cored mounds that occur in permafrost regions on Earth. Possible pingos have been observed on Mars.

Svalbard is located in the discontinuous zone of permafrost. Because the landscape of Svalbard is under the influence of a polar desert climate, it is a good analogue for comparative Martian studies. Of particular interest to such studies are gullies as erosional forms. Martian gullies resemble terrestrial features formed by mass-wasting processes of a flowing mixture of clastic debris and water (debris flows). Their existence on Mars is interpreted to indicate liquid water in the recent past because of their pristine appearance, their stratigraphic relationships to young surface features, their lack of superimposed impact craters, and their distinct albedo relative to the surroundings, indicating limited dust cover. The possible existence of liquid water on Mars in the very recent past is of utmost interest to planetary science. The "Svalbard Permafrost Landforms as Analogues for Mars" (SPLAM) project will focus on the regional distribution of gullies on the Hjorthfjellet and Adventtoppen mountain massif, and detailed local studies of individual gullies on the same mountain massif will be carried out as described by Carlsson et al. (2008). Other landforms which are found on Svalbard and were tentatively identified on Mars are rock glaciers, patterned ground, and pingos. We will inspect these landforms and perform morphometric measurements for comparison to geomorphological mapping results based on high-resolution images of the Martian surface. The comparative analysis in the Arctic environment of Svalbard will be carried out in July/August of 2008.

Figure 2: Gullies on Spitzbergen. Gullies are erosional landforms created by debris flows involving liquid water. Very similar landforms have been discovered on Mars and might indicate the existence of liquid water in the very recent past on Mars.
Figure 3: Patterned ground is a common type of terrain in terrestrial permafrost regions. The example shown here is from the coast of Alaska (photo: R. Tewe, U.S. Geol. Survey Photolibrary).

Last update: 20/05/2010 14:18