Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)
Department of Geography
Geomorphology; Planetary science; Morphology; Geography
Although the current climate on Mars is very cold and dry, it is generally accepted that the past environments on the planet were very different. Paleo-environments may have been warm and wet with oceans and rivers. And there is abundant evidence of water ice and glaciers on the surface as well. However, much of that comes from visual interpretation of imagery and other remote sensing data. For example, some of the characteristics that have been utilized to distinguish glacial forms are the presence of landscape features that appear similar to terrestrial glacial landforms, constraining surrounding topography, evidence of flow, orientation, elevation and valley shape. The main purpose of this dissertation is to develop a model that uses quantitative variables extracted from elevation data that can accurately categorize a valley basin as either glacial or non-glacial. The application of this model will limit the inherent subjectivity of image analysis by human interpretation. The model developed uses hypsometric attributes (elevation-area relationship), a newly defined variable similar to the equilibrium line altitude for an alpine glacier, and two neighborhood search functions intended to describe the valley cross-sectional curvature, all based on a digital elevation model (DEM) of a region. The classification model uses data-mining techniques trained on several terrestrial mountain ranges in varied geologic and geographic settings. It was applied to a select set of previously catalogued locations on Mars that resemble terrestrial glaciers. The results suggest that the landforms do have a glacial origin, thus supporting much of the previous research that has identified the glacial landforms. This implies that the paleo-environment of Mars was at least episodically cold and wet, probably during a period of increased planetary obliquity. Furthermore, the results of this research and the implications thereof add to the body of knowledge for the current and past Martian environments, which could inform future decisions for further scientific investigation and exploration of Mars, including landing sites selection and even human habitation.
Allred, Kory, "Quantitative morphometric analysis of terrestrial glacial valleys and the application to Mars" (2017). Graduate Research Theses & Dissertations. 4613.
ix, 146 pages
Northern Illinois University
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