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Quest for Present-day Dune Evolution on Mars

Presentation #213.03 in the session “Mars the Gathering!”.

Published onOct 03, 2021
Quest for Present-day Dune Evolution on Mars

The purpose of this study is to identify and analyze the present-day evolution of aeolian dunes on the surface of Mars. As such, the aim is to find if the dunes on the surface of Mars are presently active and, if so, quantify their change over time. Improving our knowledge of Martian aeolian processes may in turn aid in the development of more accurate models for Martian climate dynamics and shifts. Given that Mars is considered as a potential analog for processes seen on other planetary bodies [1], this has a potential to unveil key information for applications beyond Earth’s landforms and environment. Past work has identified candidate Martian protodunes [2], early stage aeolian bedforms that are essential precursors to mature dunes [3]. JMARS, a free GIS program, has been used to view HiRISE images of these pre-identified dune fields containing protodunes along the upwind field margin. Six dune fields were selected for study sites based on: number of overlapping HiRISE images (preferably more than 8 to view dune evolution over time), inclusion of upwind margin with potential protodunes, quality of the HiRISE images, Mars year(s) spanned by the images, and field complexity (preferably a simpler field with unimodal wind flow). Specific study sites within the dune fields focus on individual potential protodunes and their neighboring mature dunes, ~2-3 landforms per field. The margins of the protodunes, as well as their ripple patterns, are mapped for the identification of changes.

After collecting the necessary measurements from each study site, the data will then be processed and analyzed in MATLAB. In this stage, the aim is to characterize and quantify the level of change viewed on the study sites. Additionally, we will identify the types of activity occurring within the protodunes and compare the sizes of active and inactive protodunes. It should be emphasized that the results of the analysis will also be considered successful if there are no significant changes on the dune fields; indicating that they are not presently active, which would suggest that Martian dune formation may have primarily occurred under a recent and different climate. Regardless, the information gleaned from this research will lead to a better understanding of dunes and climate within Mars’ environment and beyond.

References: [1] Diniega, et al., 2021. Geomorphology, vol. 80, 107617. [2] Diniega et al., 2020, AGU meeting, Ab. EP018-0008. [3] Baddock, et al., 2017. Earth Surf. Process. & Landforms, 43, 339-346.

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