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Appears in Collections:Biological and Environmental Sciences Journal Articles
Peer Review Status: Refereed
Title: Morphometry of a glacier-linked esker in NW Tempe Terra, Mars, and implications for sediment-discharge dynamics of subglacial drainage
Author(s): Butcher, Frances E G
Balme, Matthew R
Conway, Susan J
Gallagher, Colman
Arnold, Neil S
Storrar, Robert D
Lewis, Stephen R
Hagermann, Axel
Keywords: Mars geomorphology
glaciers on Mars
wet-based glaciation
glacial hydrology
Issue Date: 15-Jul-2020
Date Deposited: 21-May-2020
Citation: Butcher FEG, Balme MR, Conway SJ, Gallagher C, Arnold NS, Storrar RD, Lewis SR & Hagermann A (2020) Morphometry of a glacier-linked esker in NW Tempe Terra, Mars, and implications for sediment-discharge dynamics of subglacial drainage. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 542, Art. No.: 116325.
Abstract: We present a systematic, metre-scale characterisation of the 3D morphometry of an esker on Mars, and the first attempt to reconstruct the multi-stage dynamics of esker formation on Mars. Eskers are sinuous ridges comprising sediment deposited by meltwater draining through ice-confined tunnels within or beneath glaciers. Detailed morphometric insights into eskers on Mars are important for (i) informing morphometric tests of whether sinuous ridges elsewhere on Mars are eskers, and (ii) informing modelling experiments which aim to reconstruct the glaciological and environmental controls on esker formation on Mars. We use a digital elevation model generated from High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) images to characterise the height and width of an extremely rare esker associated with a late-Amazonian-aged viscous flow feature (debris-covered glacier) in NW Tempe Terra, Mars. Our measurements suggest that the NW Tempe Terra esker is a ‘stacked’ formation comprising an underlying ‘lower member’ ridge that is superposed by a narrower ‘upper member’ ridge. We used a novel morphometric approach to test whether the apparent stacking records two distinct esker deposition regimes (either within the same drainage episode, or within temporally-separated drainage episodes). This approach posits that esker crest morphology is controlled by primary esker formation processes and, by extension, that portions of eskers with similar crest morphologies should have similar morphometric relationships. We predicted the morphometric relationships described by the constituent upper and lower member ridges based on ‘reference relationships’ observed for morphologically-similar portions of the esker where no evidence of stacking was observed. Our observations corresponded well with the predicted relationships, supporting our stacked esker hypothesis. We propose conceptual models, which invoke spatial and temporal variations in sediment supply and meltwater discharge, to explain the stacked morphology. These models are informed by morpho-sedimentary relationships observed along eskers on Earth.
DOI Link: 10.1016/j.epsl.2020.116325
Rights: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons CC-BY license (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. You are not required to obtain permission to reuse this article.
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