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The Dynamics of CO 2 ‐Driven Granular Flows in Gullies on Mars

Roelofs, Lonneke; Conway, Susan J.; van Dam, Bas; van Eijk, Arjan; Merrison, Jonathan P.; Iversen, Jens Jacob; Sylvest, Matthew; Patel, Manish R.; Markies, Henk; van Maarseveen, Marcel; McElwaine, Jim; Kleinhans, Maarten G.; de Haas, Tjalling

The Dynamics of CO 2 ‐Driven Granular Flows in Gullies on Mars Thumbnail


Lonneke Roelofs

Susan J. Conway

Bas van Dam

Arjan van Eijk

Jonathan P. Merrison

Jens Jacob Iversen

Matthew Sylvest

Manish R. Patel

Henk Markies

Marcel van Maarseveen

Maarten G. Kleinhans

Tjalling de Haas


Martian gullies are landforms consisting of an erosional alcove, a channel, and a depositional apron. A significant proportion of Martian gullies at the mid‐latitudes is active today. The seasonal sublimation of CO2 ice has been suggested as a driver behind present‐day gully activity. However, due to a lack of in situ observations, the actual processes causing the observed changes remain unresolved. Here, we present results from flume experiments in environmental chambers in which we created CO2‐driven granular flows under Martian atmospheric conditions. Our experiments show that under Martian atmospheric pressure, large amounts of granular material can be fluidized by the sublimation of small quantities of CO2 ice in the granular mixture (only 0.5% of the volume fraction of the flow) under slope angles as low as 10°. Dimensionless scaling of the CO2‐driven granular flows shows that they are dynamically similar to terrestrial two‐phase granular flows, that is, debris flows and pyroclastic flows. The similarity in flow dynamics explains the similarity in deposit morphology with levees and lobes, supporting the hypothesis that CO2‐driven granular flows on Mars are not merely modifying older landforms, but they are actively forming them. This has far‐reaching implications for the processes thought to have formed these gullies over time. For other planetary bodies in our solar system, our experimental results suggest that the existence of gully like landforms is not necessarily evidence for flowing liquids but that they could also be formed or modified by sublimation‐driven flow processes.


Roelofs, L., Conway, S. J., van Dam, B., van Eijk, A., Merrison, J. P., Iversen, J. J., …de Haas, T. (2024). The Dynamics of CO 2 ‐Driven Granular Flows in Gullies on Mars. Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, 129(6), Article e2024JE008319.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date May 7, 2024
Online Publication Date Jun 15, 2024
Publication Date Jun 15, 2024
Deposit Date Jul 3, 2024
Publicly Available Date Jul 3, 2024
Journal Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets
Print ISSN 2169-9097
Publisher American Geophysical Union
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 129
Issue 6
Article Number e2024JE008319
Keywords granular flows, environmental chambers, Mars, CO2, flume experiments, gullies
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Published Journal Article (6.5 Mb)

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Copyright Statement
This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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