Characterization of Large-Scale Erosional Events and Depostional Sequences within the North Polar Layered Deposits, Mars

Elisabeth Steel

Radar Cross Section of Mars North Polar Layered Deposits
Radar Cross Section of Mars North Polar Layered Deposits

The North Polar Layered Deposits (NPLD) of Mars consist of ~821,000 km3 of water ice and dust and contains a record of Martian climate and atmospheric conditions. A thorough accumulation history of the NPLD is yet to be understood and many questions remain to be answered. This study makes steps towards understanding the large-scale accumulation history of the deposits by characterizing depositional sequences bounded by large-scale erosional events. Sequence stratigraphic techniques similar to those used on terrestrial deposits were employed and cycles within the deposits were identified. Interpretations were made using data collected from an ice-penetrating, radar sounding instrument (Shallow Radar, SHARAD) onboard Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

The NPLD contain at least three depositional sequences interrupted by large-scale erosional episodes that are evidenced by angular unconformities. The erosional events are most likely caused by a combination of solar ablation and wind erosion, although the exact mechanisms remain poorly understood. This study of large-scale erosional events will provide more accurate constraints on NPLD age and accumulation rates and is an important step in creating a comprehensive history of the deposits at the north pole of Mars.

Advisor: Jack Holt