Modeling concentric crater fill in Utopia Planitia, Mars, with an ice flow line model

Congratulations to post-doctoral fellow Nora Weitz whose paper modeling concentric crater fill on Mars has been published in the journal Icarus. Click here for the paper. Here is the abstract:

Impact craters in the mid-latitudes of Mars are commonly filled to variable degrees with some combination of ice, dust, and rocky debris. Concentric surface features visible in these craters have been linked to debris transportation and glacial and periglacial processes. Concentric crater fill (CCF) observed today are interpreted to be the remains of repeated periods of accumulation and sublimation during the last tens to hundreds of million years. Previous work suggests that during phases of high obliquity, ice accumulates in crater interiors and begins to flow down steep crater slopes, slowly filling the crater. During times of low obliquity ice is protected from sublimation through a surface debris layer consisting of dust and rocky material. Here, we use an ice flow line model to understand the development of concentric crater fill.

In a regional study of Utopia Planitia craters, we address questions about the influence of crater size on the CCF formation process, the time scales needed to fill an impact crater with ice, and explore commonly described flow features of CCF. We show that observed surface debris deposits as well as asymmetric flow features can be reproduced with the model. Using surface mass balance data from global climate models and a credible obliquity scenario, we find that craters less than 80 km in diameter can be entirely filled in less than 8 My, beginning as recently as 40 Ma ago. Uncertainties in input variables related to ice viscosity do not change the overall behavior of ice flow and the filling process. We model CCF for the Utopia Planitia region and find subtle trends for crater size versus fill level, crater size versus sublimation reduction by the surface debris layer, and crater floor elevation versus fill level.

About the author