Formation of recurring slope lineae by liquid brines on present-day Mars

by Chevrier, Vincent F.; Rivera-Valentin, Edgard G.

Recurring Slope Lineae (RSL) are small scale seasonal flow features identified by Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter that present several interesting characteristics such as an albedo contrast, seasonal dependence, and a strong preference for equator-facing slopes. All of these characteristics strongly suggest a thermally driven mechanism such as a liquid triggered or dominated flow. Here we investigate the possibility that these features are formed by melting of brines of various compositions via a combination of thermodynamic and kinetic numerical models. Results suggest that a solution with a freezing temperature of similar to 223 K can best reproduce the observed seasonality. Relatively high surface evaporation rates at the RSL locations make the flows quickly disappear over a single season. Our model reproduces well the seasonality of RSL and can explain the preference for equator-facing slopes suggesting that brine flows, and therefore liquids, are possible on a small time and space scale today on Mars. However, if the RSL are indeed formed by brines, it may indicate that a recharge mechanism is active in order to maintain a source of brine over even short geological timescales, which would have important implications for the Martian water cycle. Citation: Chevrier, V. F., and E. G. Rivera-Valentin (2012), Formation of recurring slope lineae by liquid brines on present-day Mars, Geophys. Res. Lett., 39, L21202, doi:10.1029/2012GL054119.

Geophysical Research Letters
1944-8007; 0094-8276