Geomorphic Evidence for the Distribution of Ground Ice on Mars

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Science  17 Jan 1986:
Vol. 231, Issue 4735, pp. 249-252
DOI: 10.1126/science.231.4735.249


High-resolution Viking orbiter images show evidence for quasi-viscous relaxation of topography. The relaxation is believed to be due to creep deformation of ice in near-surface materials. The global distribution of the inferred ground ice shows a pronounced latitudinal dependence. The equatorial regions of Mars appear to be ice-poor, while the heavily cratered terrain poleward of ± 30° latitude appears to be ice-rich. The style of creep poleward of ± 30° varies with latitude, possibly due to variations in ice rheology with temperature. The distribution suggests that ice at low latitudes, which is not in equilibrium with the present atmosphere, has been lost via sublimation and diffusion through the regolith, thereby causing a net poleward transport of ice over martian history.