Large avalanches of groundwater produced floods on the surface of Mars

More than 3,000 million years ago, the red planet suffered great floods in the northern lowlands, and it was believed that they had been caused by the melting of the upper crust of the south pole of the planet. However, a recent study with Spanish participation explains how these bodies of water come from the fusion of older underground ice, which was formed, in reality, as a consequence of climate change. This finding could help locate ice water today and reveal if there was ever life.

For a long time scientists have believed that the large masses of groundwater that were concentrated under the surface of Mars 3,650 million years ago came from the global thaw. An investigation directed by José Alexis Palmero Rodríguez, of the Institute of Planetary Sciences in Tucson (Arizona, USA) in collaboration with the Center of Astrobiology of Madrid, reveals that the source of these large aquifers were regional deposits of sediments and ice.

"Our work shows that the floods come from enormous aquifers located in very specific volcanic areas of the Martian highlands, which formed gigantic underground rivers, and these ended up flowing into the lowlands, forming extensive oceans," Alberto explains. González Fairén, researcher at the Center for Astrobiology and co-author of the study published in the journal Scientific Reports.

The analysis of the high-resolution images provided by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter space probe provides evidence to scientists that the Martian ocean disappeared 3,650 million years ago, and the surface froze during one s 450 million years ago.

Subsequently, about 3.2 billion years ago, the concentrated lava beneath the Martian ice deposits heated the ground, melted the frozen materials and produced large underground river systems that spread hundreds of kilometers. This large volume of water eventually reached the already dry surface, excavating huge canyons and generating giant floods.

The ice was concentrated in specific areas under the surface of the highlands, by a combination of marine sedimentary processes , fluvial and glacial, and as a consequence of global climate change on Mars. "When a large part of the ice buried under layers of sediment subsequently melted, due to the heat generated in the volcanic areas, huge underground rivers were formed", adds the scientist.





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