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Regional Processes Led to Huge Martian Floods

By David Reneke

Regional processes led to huge Martian floods, and interstellar seeds could have created oases of life throughout the universe.

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Gigantic groundwater outbursts created the largest flood channels in the solar system on Mars 3.2 billion years ago. For many years it was thought that this was caused by the release of water from a global water table, but research carried out by the Planetary Science Institute reveals that the source was regional deposits of sediment and ice set in place 450 million years earlier.

“The flooding is due to regional processes, not global processes,” said J. Alexis P. Rodriguez, who was lead author of the research published in Scientific Reports (

The evidence is intriguing. Deposition of sediment from rivers and glacial melt filled giant canyons beneath a primordial ocean contained within the planet’s northern lowlands. It was the water preserved in these canyon sediments that was later released as great floods, the effects of which can be seen today.

The canyons filled, the Martian ocean disappeared and the surface froze for approximately 450 million years. Then, about 3.2 billion years ago, lava beneath the canyons heated the soil, melted the icy materials and produced vast systems of sub­terranean rivers extending hundreds of kilometres. This water erupted onto the now-dry surface in giant floods.

“Our investigation suggests that early...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.