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Title: An investigation of potential periglacial landforms on the northern plains of Mars : an integrated field, laboratory and remote sensing study
Author: Barrett, Alexander Matthew
ISNI:       0000 0004 8502 5089
Awarding Body: Open University
Current Institution: Open University
Date of Award: 2014
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In this investigation the hypothesis that the Northern Plains of Mars have been shaped by periglacial processes is assessed. A periglacial formation mechanism has been proposed for a variety of martian landforms. These were examined with a particular focus on clastic patterned ground. Periglacial environments occur in cold climate regions of Earth due to the repeated freezing and thawing of water, they require the presence of liquid water to develop. Consequently, if martian landforms are periglacial then they would provide a useful geomorphic marker for locations where water has been liquid in the geologically recent past. The main strand of this investigation consisted of a survey of high resolution images from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft. Locations with putative periglacial landforms were examined to test this and other formation hypotheses. This series of surveys was supported by two other research activities; two field campaigns were conducted to examine sorted patterned ground in Iceland. Air photographs, verified by in situ observations, were compared to the martian features studied in the main survey. A laboratory study was also conducted with the aim of testing whether periglacial processes were viable under the low temperature conditions found on the martian surface in the present day. This "proof of concept" study proved inconclusive, but is summarised for completeness. It was found that the morphology and situation of these martian landforms was a reasonable fit for that which would be expected in a periglacial environment. Two alternative theories to explain the formation of martian clastic networks were rejected, as they did not appear to fit with the observed morphologies. It remains uncertain whether periglacial processes are viable on Mars, but they remain the best theory to explain the occurrence of clastic networks on the Northern Plains.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral