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Terrestrial gullies and debris-flow tracks on Svalbard as planetary analogs for Mars

Journal article
Authors Dennis Reiss
Harald Hiesinger
Michael Zanetti
Ernst Hauber
Ralf Jaumann
Frank Trauthan
Frank Preusker
Mathias Ulrich
Andreas Johnsson
Lars Johansson
Mats Olvmo
Ella Carlsson
Henrik Johansson
Steve McDaniel
Published in The Geological Society of America, Special Paper
Volume 483
Pages 165-175
Publication year 2011
Published at Department of Earth Sciences
Pages 165-175
Language en
Keywords Mars, Svalbard, periglacial, debris flows
Subject categories Planetary system, Physical Geography, Other Earth and Related Environmental Sciences


We compared the morphology of gully sedimentary fans on Svalbard as possible analogs to gullies on Mars in order to constrain whether fl uvial and/or debris-fl ow processes are predominantly responsible for the formation of Martian gullies. Our analysis is based on high-resolution imagery (High Resolution Stereo Camera [HRSC-AX], ~20 cm/pixel) acquired through a fl ight campaign in summer 2008 and ground truth during two expeditions in the summers of 2008 and 2009 in Svalbard, compared to highresolution satellite imagery (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment [HiRISE], ~25 cm/pixel) from Mars. On Svalbard, fluvial and debris-fl ow processes are evident in the formation of gullies, but the morphological characteristics clearly show that the transport and sedimentation of eroded material are predominated by debris flows. Most investigated gullies on Mars lack clear evidence for debris-flow processes. The Martian gully fan morphology is more consistent with the deposition of small overlapping fans by multiple fluvial flow events. Clear evidence for debris flows on Mars was only found in one new location, in addition to a few previously published examples. The occurrence of debris-flow processes in the formation of Martian gullies seems to be rare and locally limited. If predominantly fl uvial processes caused the formation of gullies on Mars, then large amounts of water would have been required for their formation because of the relatively low sediment supply in stream and/or hyperconcentrated fl ows. Repeated seasonal or episodic snow deposition and melting during periods of higher obliquity in the recent past on Mars can best explain the formation of the gullies.

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