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Using the data accumulated from various modern Mars orbiters scientists now think that many of the Martian floods were caused by regional circumstances rather than a single global event.
“The flooding is due to regional processes, not global processes,” said Rodriguez, a Senior Scientist at the Planetary Science Institute and lead author of “Martian outflow channels: How did their source aquifers form, and why did they drain so quickly?” that appears in a Nature Scientific Report. “Deposition of sediment from rivers and glacial melt filled giant canyons beneath a primordial ocean contained within the planet’s northern lowlands. It was the water preserved in these canyon sediments that was later released as great floods, the effects of which can be seen today.”
The canyons filled, the Martian ocean disappeared, and the surface froze for approximately 450 million years. Then, about 3.2 billion years ago, lava beneath the canyons heated the soil, melted the icy materials, and produced vast systems of subterranean rivers extending hundreds of kilometers. This water erupted onto the now-dry surface in giant floods.
This theory suggests that Mars still has a great deal of trapped frozen water held in large underground reserves, available for future colonists. I like the fact that it also suggests that there were “vast systems of subterranean rivers extending hundreds of kilometers” where this frozen water was once stored and, having now melted, has left behind gigantic underground caverns.