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The formation of araneiforms by carbon dioxide venting and vigorous sublimation dynamics under martian atmospheric pressure

Mc Keown, Lauren; McElwaine, J.N.; Bourke, M.C.; Sylvest, M.E.; Patel, M.R.

The formation of araneiforms by carbon dioxide venting and vigorous sublimation dynamics under martian atmospheric pressure Thumbnail


Lauren Mc Keown

M.C. Bourke

M.E. Sylvest

M.R. Patel


The local redistribution of granular material by sublimation of the southern seasonal CO2 ice deposit is one of the most active surface shaping processes on Mars today. This unique geomorphic mechanism is hypothesised to be the cause of the dendritic, branching, spider-like araneiform terrain and associated fans and spots—features which are native to Mars and have no Earth analogues. However, there is a paucity of empirical data to test the validity of this hypothesis. Additionally, it is unclear whether some araneiform patterns began as radial and then grew outward, or whether troughs connected at mutual centres over time. Here we present the results of a suite of laboratory experiments undertaken to investigate if the interaction between a sublimating CO2 ice overburden containing central vents and a porous, mobile regolith will mobilise grains from beneath the ice in the form of a plume to generate araneiform patterns. We quantify the branching and area of the dendritic features that form. We provide the first observations of plume activity via CO2 sublimation and consequent erosion to form araneiform features. We show that CO2 sublimation can be a highly efficient agent of sediment transport under present day Martian atmospheric pressure and that morphometry is governed by the Shields parameter.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 18, 2021
Online Publication Date Mar 19, 2021
Publication Date 2021
Deposit Date Apr 8, 2021
Publicly Available Date Apr 8, 2021
Journal Scientific Reports
Publisher Nature Research
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 11
Article Number 6445
Public URL


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