Washington: Water overflowing from ancient lakes on Mars created catastrophic floods that rapidly carved canyons on the red planet over three billion years ago, a study has found. The findings suggest that catastrophic geologic processes may have had a major role in shaping the landscape of Mars and other worlds without plate tectonics, said Tim Goudge, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Texas at Austin in the US.
“These breached lakes are fairly common and some of them are quite large, some as large as the Caspian Sea,” said Goudge, lead author of the study published in the journal Geology. “So we think this style of catastrophic overflow flooding and rapid incision of outlet canyons was probably quite important on early Mars’ surface,” he said. From studying rock formations from satellite images, scientists know that hundreds of craters across the surface of Mars were once filled with water.
More than 200 of these “paleolakes” have outlet canyons tens to hundreds of kilometers long and several kilometers wide carved by water flowing from the ancient lakes. However, it was unknown whether the canyons were gradually carved over millions of years or carved rapidly by single floods.
While massive floods flowing from Martian craters might sound like a scene in a science fiction novel, a similar process occurs on Earth when lakes dammed by glaciers break through their icy barriers.