Rivers raged on Mars late into its history

Rivers raged on Mars late into its history
A photo of a preserved river channel on Mars, taken by an orbiting satellite, with color overlaid to show different elevations (blue is low, yellow is high). Credit: NASA/JPL/Univ. Arizona/UChicago

Long ago on Mars, water carved deep riverbeds into the planet's surface—but we still don't know what kind of weather fed them. Scientists aren't sure, because their understanding of the Martian climate billions of years ago remains incomplete.

A new study by University of Chicago scientists catalogued these to conclude that significant river runoff persisted on Mars later into its history than previously thought. According to the study, published March 27 in Science Advances, the runoff was intense—rivers on Mars were wider than those on Earth today—and occurred at hundreds of locations on the red planet.

This complicates the picture for scientists trying to model the ancient Martian climate, said lead study author Edwin Kite, assistant professor of geophysical sciences and an expert in both the history of Mars and climates of other worlds. "It's already hard to explain rivers or lakes based on the information we have," he said. "This makes a difficult problem even more difficult."

But, he said, the constraints could be useful in winnowing the many theories researchers have proposed to explain the climate.

Mars is crisscrossed with the distinctive tracks of long-dead rivers. NASA's spacecraft have taken photos of hundreds of these rivers from orbit, and when the Mars rover Curiosity landed in 2012, it sent back images of pebbles that were rounded—tumbled for a long time in the bottom of a river.

It's a puzzle why ancient Mars had . Mars has an extremely thin atmosphere today, and early in the planet's history, it was also only receiving a third of the sunlight of present-day Earth, which shouldn't be enough heat to maintain liquid "Indeed, even on ancient Mars, when it was wet enough for rivers some of the time, the rest of the data looks like Mars was extremely cold and dry most of the time," Kite said.

Rivers raged on Mars late into its history
Marked photo of a preserved river channel on Mars, taken by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, with color overlaid to indicate elevation (blue is low, yellow is high.) The range of elevation in the scene is approximately 35 meters. Credit: NASA/JPL/Univ. Arizona/UChicago

Seeking a better understanding of Martian precipitation, Kite and his colleagues analyzed photographs and elevation models for more than 200 ancient Martian riverbeds spanning over a billion years. These riverbeds are a rich source of clues about the water running through them and the climate that produced it. For example, the width and steepness of the riverbeds and the size of the gravel tell scientists about the force of the water flow, and the quantity of the gravel constrains the volume of water coming through.

Their analysis shows clear evidence for persistent, strong runoff that occurred well into the last stage of the wet climate, Kite said.

The results provide guidance for those trying to reconstruct the Martian climate, Kite said. For example, the size of the rivers implies the water was flowing continuously, not just at high noon, so climate modelers need to account for a strong greenhouse effect to keep the planet warm enough for average daytime temperatures above the freezing point of water.

The rivers also show strong flow up to the last geological minute before the wet climate dries up. "You would expect them to wane gradually over time, but that's not what we see," Kite said. The rivers get shorter—hundreds of kilometers rather than thousands—but discharge is still strong. "The wettest day of the year is still very wet."

It's possible the had a sort of "on/off" switch, Kite speculated, which tipped back and forth between dry and wet cycles.

"Our work answers some existing questions but raises a new one. Which is wrong: the , the atmosphere evolution models, or our basic understanding of inner solar system chronology?" he said.


Explore further

Explosive bursts of methane helped ancient Mars keep liquid water flowing, study finds

More information: E.S. Kite el al., "Persistence of intense, climate-driven runoff late in Mars history," Science Advances (2019). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aav7710 , http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/5/3/eaav7710
Journal information: Science Advances

Citation: Rivers raged on Mars late into its history (2019, March 27) retrieved 20 June 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-03-rivers-raged-mars-late-history.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
808 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

Mar 27, 2019
This time its Mars time

Mars extremely thin atmosphere today, and in this planet's history receiving a third of the sunlight of present-day Earth unable to maintain liquid water on ancient Mars, when wet enough for rivers some of the time Mars was extremely cold and dry

This running debate is running out of steam, literally
as
there is nor sufficient heat to maintain liquid water
but
there they are
undeniably river beds
and
water erosion
but
the climatic conditions for water do not exist
never have existed
so how did this enormous melt water materialise
come to that
where did these oceans materialise
In the first place
as it has never rained on Mars
Mars never has had an atmosphere
so
even if volcanic activity fed these dead rivers
the flowing water
Immediately evaporated into the vacuous atmosphere
meaning
There was no time to carve these enormous rivers
so
Today, this Mar's in rivers is an impossibility possibility

Mar 27, 2019
Yes, rather spooky, isn't it? If it wasn't actual water, then what caused all of those dry beds where liquid water should have been - or even ANY liquid. Perhaps all of the water was somehow mysteriously transported to Earth?

SpookyOtto should be along at any time now. Otto wants to go to Mars.

Mar 27, 2019
I'll be happy to sell you all tickets.
Cash up front.
No refunds
No returns.
Not responsible for any of your misplaced luggage that winds up in the trunk of my car.

Good Bye!
Good Luck!
{Good Riddance}

& uhmm fellas. you might want to reread this article or better yet the original papers.
When the writer of this article as posted to the phys.org site?
They forgot one tiny detail.
Unimportant really, I'm sure...

When they fail to mention
which billion years of Mars
4 billion years of existence,
that the floodwaters were present on Mars.

I betcha researchers meant the First Aeon of Mars history.
Which means?
Oh go ahead, anybody?
Sigh...
Okay, I'll be the spoilsport.

This means. it has been at least 2 or maybe 3 billion years since there was any regular occurence of surface liquids of any possible chemical composition.

Your dreams of the Towers of Helium, dried up & blew away one hellaciously long time ago!

Mar 27, 2019
"Our work answers some existing questions but raises a new one. Which is wrong: the climate models, the atmosphere evolution models, or our basic understanding of inner solar system chronology?" he said.

None of the above.
https://www.youtu...6__JDeyw

Mar 28, 2019
What if Mars got its water during intense periods of icy meteoroids, say annually as it passed through a cloud of meteorites. These would have vaporized as they entered the atmosphere, providing enough water vapour to sustain a green house effect, until it all condensed.

Mar 28, 2019
Rivers raged on Mars late into its history


Not according to the evidence.
https://youtu.be/iWwkRz-TVfQ

Mar 28, 2019
Rivers raged on Mars late into its history


Not according to the evidence.
https://youtu.be/iWwkRz-TVfQ


Sure, I'm gonna believe what they say there! Just like I believe every flat Earth YouTube video!

Mar 28, 2019
Rivers raged on Mars late into its history


Not according to the evidence.
https://youtu.be/iWwkRz-TVfQ


What evidence? Where has it been written up?

Mar 28, 2019
Who needs a write up when a video has been peer reviewed by over 12000 YouTube goers. Alone their qualifications are 0 but when you multiply 0 times 12000 times electricity you get irrefutable evidence!

I'm so glad we don't live in their loony world

Mar 28, 2019
How about this for wild speculation?:

Mars must have had something enabling it to be warm and wet that it does not have today. Mars is the "red planet" due to oxidation of iron. The oxygen came from water vapor in the atmosphere split by sunlight into hydrogen and oxygen and lost to space. We know Mars lost an ocean of water because the deuterium/hydrogen ratio is much higher than on Earth.

Perhaps the trick is the otherwise thin Martian atmosphere enabled a vast amount of greenhouse gas water vapor to exist in the atmosphere causing positive feedback global warming to the extent that Mars was warm enough to keep liquid water. The water on the surface is explained at least in part by the Martian atmosphere being at or near saturation during this time, so even a little cooling at night could cause massive condensation. Surprisingly, the Martian atmosphere is still near the triple point, enabling a much more limited condensation observable on probe lander parts even today.

Mar 28, 2019
Mars must have had something enabling it to be warm and wet that it does not have today.


The remnant heat of formation. We know that there are enormous volcanoes on the planet, and they would have been belching large amounts of GHGs into the atmosphere. Primarily, CO2 and H2O. This would have allowed liquid water to exist at the surface. However, due to Mars being a small planet, and therefore having a higher surface to volume ratio than Earth, it cooled down more quickly, and the GHG input slowed to pretty much zero. No magnetic field to protect it from the solar wind, and lower gravity, meant the atmosphere could be stripped.

Mar 28, 2019
auntie, last year, commenting about a previous Mars article. I speculated that meteoroid impacts could deliver detectable water to the Mar's surface.

Though of course it would quickly subliminate away!

When that party-pooper DS busts my toy bubble maker by pointing out the water detected on Mars has a different isotope ratio than that detected in space rocks.

Bummer!

Mar 28, 2019
I'll be happy to sell you all tickets.
Cash up front.
No refunds
No returns.
Not responsible for any of your misplaced luggage that winds up in the trunk of my car.

Good Bye!
Good Luck!
{Good Riddance}

This means. it has been at least 2 or maybe 3 billion years since there was any regular occurence of surface liquids of any possible chemical composition.

Your dreams of the Towers of Helium, dried up & blew away one hellaciously long time ago!

says rrwilliejoe

Again, as usual, you are not making any sense, rrwilliejoe. And what "Towers of Helium" are you talking about? Exactly WHO is dreaming of such Towers, and why would anyone think such Towers of Helium ever existed on Mars, rrwilliejoe?
You and your friends here in physorg should lay off smoking weed. It is evidently shrinking your brain cells and making you sound like a talking dummy. Is Captain Beelzebub or Da Schniebo your ventriloquist, rrwilliejoe?

Mar 28, 2019
The remnant heat of formation.


Agreed, as far as initially warm conditions go, but the article "conclude(d) that significant river runoff persisted on Mars later into its history than previously thought."

As hard as it is to imagine today, perhaps Mars had a mostly water vapor atmosphere with added amounts of CO2, methane, argon, etc. The water vapor got into positive feedback global warming with more water vapor trapping more heat, thereby creating more water vapor from melting ice. I think all that water vapor fits with the available evidence, but is hard to imagine because Mars is so dry today. I think this is likely to be part of the story, but who knows if it is the whole story?

Mar 28, 2019
We know that there are enormous volcanoes on the planet

Hypothesized to be volcanoes, until one decides to actually looks at the evidence to see they clearly are not volcanoes.

Mar 28, 2019
"What Towers of Helium?"
Really? & no one responded?

Am I the last literate commentator?

May an ugly thoat poop on your head!

Mar 28, 2019
cant, if you check around for online maps of Earth.
For one that shows ocean bottom.
There you will see shield volcanoes very similar to the ones left on Mars.

The failure was to clarify that the Mars shield volcanoes are heavily eroded remnants, billions of years old.

Yes, we have no eruption.
Mo eruption on Mars.
Today.
Since, ohh, what time is it?
Since about noon, eighth day of the fourteenth month of year one billion. Mars Zulu Time.

"Whatta yah mean. How do I know?"
"It says so on this souvenir snowglobe of The Towers of Helium. From my last visit, a gift from Carter."

"Now I wouldn't lie too you.
I may not always tell you the truth.
But I'd hardly ever lie to you.
Too often"

Mar 28, 2019
Shield volcanoes don't have moats. Nor do they have four mile high scarps or aureole of grooved terrain surrounding them. There are numerous other features that are irreconcilable with volcanic activity, but you care not about facts but what is convenient for your brain cell.

Mar 29, 2019
We know that there are enormous volcanoes on the planet

Hypothesized to be volcanoes, until one decides to actually looks at the evidence to see they clearly are not volcanoes.


There is no evidence that they are not volcanoes. Link to it if you believe otherwise.

Mar 29, 2019
Shield volcanoes don't have moats. Nor do they have four mile high scarps or aureole of grooved terrain surrounding them. There are numerous other features that are irreconcilable with volcanic activity, but you care not about facts but what is convenient for your brain cell.


Says whom? Links please.

Mar 29, 2019
Why don't you show us a earthly shield volcano that has any of these features. And don't forget to include those with overlapping craters as is seen on Martian "volcanoes".

Mar 29, 2019
okay cant, you've put your (snicker) reputation on the line.
If those are not shield volcanoes on Mars?
What are they?
What areslogy process could have produced that configuration of apparently ancient landscapes?
In which aeon of Mars were those titanic-sized mystery barrows produced?

Why doesn't billions of years of erosion & bonbardment explain the condition they are in today?

Shield volcanoes on Earth do have similar escarpments & canyons surrounding them.
That are buried under aeons of eroded materials in addition to Earth's active tectonics moving all those natural geological features around.
A constant ongoing series of processing, covering them up & then exposing them multiple times.

Are you going to deny that an important difference between the histories of Mars & Earth, has always been that Mars ilacks active tectonics?
& has not been active in any meaningful way for billions of years?

Except for the irregular collisions with sizable random asteroids?

Mar 29, 2019
Why don't you show us a earthly shield volcano that has any of these features. And don't forget to include those with overlapping craters as is seen on Martian "volcanoes".


Stop avoiding the question - where is this alternative theory of the formation of Olympus Mons? It doesn't exist, does it? And what have craters got to do with anything?

Mar 30, 2019
If those are not shield volcanoes on Mars?
What are they?

Lightning blisters of course, as has been shown in laboratory demonstrations.
Olympus Mons in the laboratory;
https://www.thund...mons.htm

Mar 30, 2019
If those are not shield volcanoes on Mars?
What are they?

Lightning blisters of course, as has been shown in laboratory demonstrations.
Olympus Mons in the laboratory;
https://www.thund...mons.htm


I mean actual science, not a bunch of crap from a Velikovskian cult.

Mar 30, 2019
I mean actual science

I know you are opposed to real laboratory experimentation, but that doesn't mean your hypothetical maths claptrap is "actual science". You are only projecting your own faerie tale beliefs and claim it to be science.

Mar 30, 2019
I tried to come up with a humorous reply to cant's lunacy, but... well...

There really is no possible response to his delusions. That would not aggravate the pathos of his instability even more...

So, so sad really.

Mar 30, 2019
I mean actual science

I know you are opposed to real laboratory experimentation, but that doesn't mean your hypothetical maths claptrap is "actual science". You are only projecting your own faerie tale beliefs and claim it to be science.


It is a volcano, you loon. Nobody is claiming otherwise. There is nothing in the scientific literature claiming such idiocy.
Where did they think this giant lightning bolt was going to come from? Let me guess - something to do with Venus doing handbrake turns around the solar system, and coming close to Mars? That is physically impossible. So, show me the science. Where is it written up?

Mar 31, 2019
It is a volcano, you loon. Nobody is claiming otherwise. There is nothing in the scientific literature claiming such idiocy.

It is assumed to be a volcano, because it looks like a duck. That there is no challenge in the "scientific literature" is irrelevant.
Where did they think this giant lightning bolt was going to come from? Let me guess - something to do with Venus doing handbrake turns around the solar system, and coming close to Mars? That is physically impossible.

There are a couple possibilities, a close approach of a differently charged celestial body is one such possibility. And no, it is not impossible in a universe dominated by electromagnetism.
Another possibility would be a solar event of magnitude beyond which has been observed in the solar system by modern humanity.

Mar 31, 2019
There are a couple possibilities, a close approach of a differently charged celestial body is one such possibility. And no, it is not impossible in a universe dominated by electromagnetism.
Another possibility would be a solar event of magnitude beyond which has been observed in the solar system by modern humanity.


Wrong. Not a single scientist is claiming any such thing. It is impossible. And EM does not dominate, except at very short range. And 'solar events' do not cause giant, directed lightning bolts. You are just spewing forth idiotic, Velikovskian pseudoscience. It is pathetic, and nothing to do with science. Which is why no scientist has ever claimed that such garbage happens.

Mar 31, 2019
Regardless of your hand wavy claims, each of your comments is completely false.

Mar 31, 2019
Regardless of your hand wavy claims, each of your comments is completely false.


So link to the science, or I'll report your posts as continued pushing of pseudoscientific rubbish. Get on with it. Where is the science? Not a bunch of garbage from a pseudoscience site, featuring unqualified idiots.

Mar 31, 2019
So link to the science

It is understood the solar system has changed dramatically through time, nothing impossible about it.
https://www.techr...ed-alien
The only difference being the timing, and what processes drove these events.
And there are volumes written regarding human eyewitness testimony of events that occurred during human history, only your preconceived notions blind you from these facts.

Mar 31, 2019
So link to the science

It is understood the solar system has changed dramatically through time, nothing impossible about it.
https://www.techr...ed-alien
The only difference being the timing, and what processes drove these events.
And there are volumes written regarding human eyewitness testimony of events that occurred during human history, only your preconceived notions blind you from these facts.


No, there is absolutely nothing about sudden changes in human memory. You are talking rubbish. Pure pseudoscience. And there is not volumes regarding eye witness testimony. Just fruitloops like Velikovsky and Talbott making stuff up. You have zero science. As usual.

Mar 31, 2019
And there is not volumes regarding eye witness testimony.

Willful ignorance is your own disease.

Mar 31, 2019
And there is not volumes regarding eye witness testimony.

Willful ignorance is your own disease.


I am not ignorant of anything. There is nothing to be ignorant of. You are lying.

Mar 31, 2019
@cd the eu pseudoscience troll
And there are volumes written regarding human eyewitness testimony of events that occurred during human history
the only place eyewitness testimony is considered "reliable" is in a court or a religion like yours
see also
The criminal justice system relies heavily on eyewitness identification for investigating and prosecuting crimes. Psychology has built the only scientific literature on eyewitness identification and has warned the justice system of problems with eyewitness identification evidence.
Wells, Olsen (2003)

http://www.guiasa...exo1.pdf

http://libguides....;p=61584

Mar 31, 2019
Methinks cd is relying on the dreadful misinterpretations of mythology by clowns such as Velikovsky and David Talbott. Awful stuff, and certainly nothing to do with science.

Mar 31, 2019
@castro
Methinks cd is relying on the dreadful misinterpretations of mythology by clowns such as Velikovsky and David Talbott
methinks you may be correct

one thing that cd repeatedly links to and his speculative analysis mimics is the thunderdolts and his personal eu site. by definition, this is religious fanaticism as he has:
a belief that is not supported by evidence
repeated justification of said beliefs
said belief "answers" everything for him
challenges to said belief with evidence do not detract him from said belief
said belief is demonstrably false, and still he believes
there is no evidence supporting his belief except other believers
prolific advocacy for said belief
intentional misrepresentation of evidence against his belief
conspiracist ideation and delusional beliefs about how science won't allow his belief to be considered scientific

might as well just get a 501(c)3 for religious purposes
(redundancy intentional - lol)

Mar 31, 2019
I am not ignorant of anything.

That is about the most laughable comment I have ever seen posted by anyone, anywhere. And of course, as usual, that is about exactly opposite of reality.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more