Martian mega-landslides could reach speeds of 450 MPH | Science | News

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Slippery ice in the Martian soil may speed up powerful landslides to an astonishing velocity, according to new models based on Mars.

Researchers Fabio Vittorio De Blasio and Giovanni Battista Crosta of the University of Milano-Bicocca in Italy examined the dynamics of landslides on Mars and found that ice – which is found at the base of mountainous ridges and in the soil – can speed up landslides to 200 metres per second.

These speeds are particularly prominent in the Valles Marineris – a huge canyon-like system near the Red Planet’s equator.

The team wrote in The European Physical Journal Plus: “Only if the presence of ice is included in the calculations do results reproduce reasonably well both the vertical collapse of landslide material in the scarp area, and the extreme thinning and runout in the distal area, which are evident characteristics of large landslides in Valles Marineris.”

The duo add that their conclusion fits with other available evidence and that landslides on Valles Marineris are extremely similar to landslides on Earth that fall onto glaciers.

The researchers continue: “The calculated velocity of landslides (often well in excess of 100 m/s and up to 200 m/s at peak) compares well with velocity estimates based on the run-up of the landslides on mounds.

“We conclude that ice may have been an important medium of lubrication of landslides on Mars, even in equatorial areas like Valles Marineris.”

A speed of 200 metres per second which is the equivalent to 450 miles per hour.

For context, the fastest flows on Earth – “pyroclastic flows” which steam down volcanic slopes during an eruption – reach a maximum speed of 150 miles per hour.

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