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Using academic literature and appropriate web sites, account for the geomorphological processes operating (and suspected to be operating) on the surface of Mars and compare their effectiveness comparative to earth.’

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Introduction

20/02/2002James Alexander

‘Despite the first significant imaging of the Martian surface occurring in the 1960’s, planetary scientists from many disciplines have been able to speculate about the processes operating on the red planet by applying the knowledge of known terrestrial science.  Using academic literature and appropriate web sites, account for the geomorphological processes operating (and suspected to be operating) on the surface of Mars and compare their effectiveness comparative to earth.’

The surface of Mars has been examined for centuries using telescopes from earth, but recent satellite missions (Mariner, 1964 and Viking 1976- 80) have revealed more about the red planet than could have ever been imagined.  Mars, unlike other planets in the solar system has geomorphological processes very similar to that of planet earth’s.  Aeolian, volcanic, fluvial, periglacial and mass wasting processes occur or have occurred on the planet’s surface, although their effectiveness comparative to earth differ significantly.  The processes can be put into two categories, processes that have occurred in the past, such as fluvial and volcanic, and processes that are occurring now, namely mass wasting and Aeolian processes.  Due

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Middle

[16] and it is thought that the sand dunes present on Mars are made up of basalt from volcanic plains as they are very dark[17].  Dunes on Mars are largely formed from sand sized aggregates formed from the electrostatic bonding of this finer material.  However, unlike on earth, these sand like aggregates have a very short lifespan because of the kamikaze effect, whereby aggregates smash into rocks at high speed, breaking into smaller particles[18].  Compared to earth then dunes are composed of basalt, are much larger and have a shorter lifespan (mainly because of the lack of vegetation to hold sand in place).  

Although there is no evidence to suggest glaciers existed on Mars, periglacial processes are thought to be taking place.  The term periglacial refers to environments that have low temperatures above and below freezing.  This would mean at some point in the history of Mars it is warmer than it is today, as surface temperatures average -60ºC[19].  Freeze thaw and frost creep may have occurred when water was present on the surface, but presently water is only present in the regolith of equatorial regions.

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Conclusion

Global geomorphology: an introduction to the study of landforms’ Harlow :Longman Scientific & Technical
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