Martian slope streaks as plausible indicators of transient water activity

Anshuman Bhardwaj, Lydia Sam, F. Javier Martín-Torres, María-Paz Zorzano, Ricardo M. Fonseca. 2017.  Martian slope streaks as plausible indicators of transient water activity. Scientific Reports 7, DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-07453-9

Slope streaks have been frequently observed in the equatorial, low thermal inertia and dusty regions of Mars. The reason behind their formation remains unclear with proposed hypotheses for both dry and wet mechanisms. Here, we report an up-to-date distribution and morphometric investigation of Martian slope streaks. We find: (i) a remarkable coexistence of the slope streak distribution with the regions on Mars with high abundances of water-equivalent hydrogen, chlorine, and iron; (ii) favourable thermodynamic conditions for transient deliquescence and brine development in the slope streak regions; (iii) a significant concurrence of slope streak distribution with the regions of enhanced atmospheric water vapour concentration, thus suggestive of a present-day regolith-atmosphere water cycle; and (iv) terrain preferences and flow patterns supporting a wet mechanism for slope streaks. These results suggest a strong local regolith-atmosphere water coupling in the slope streak regions that leads to the formation of these fluidised features. Our conclusions can have profound astrobiological, habitability, environmental, and planetary protection implications.

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