Congratulations to Lauren Mc Keown who has received a prestigious Irish Research Council Government of Ireland Postgraduate Scholarship to support her Ph.D research with the Earth and Planetary Surface Processes Group. The scholarships are highly competitive and cover EU or non-EU fees, annual maintenance for three years and funds for research and related travel.
Sublimation of Mars’ seasonal CO2 ice cap causes geomorphologic changes on the surface of Mars. There have been many elegant hypotheses about how this works, and circumstantial evidence to support these hypotheses, but there is no quantitative data to assess CO2-sublimation-driven processes. The aim of this project is to combine data from lab experiments with theoretical models and field tests to quantify the modification of a sandy surface resulting from the levitation and sublimation of CO2 ice on or buried within that surface.
I will test and observe the interaction of CO2 ice with granular material in a controlled environment in the lab under both Earth and Mars conditions. I aim to provide clear quantitative measurements of CO2 levitation and sublimation as it interacts with the surface and subsurface. Field experiments with dry ice on sand dunes will test scenarios in more natural environments and allow changes in experiment scale. The model will be carefully developed to allow me to extrapolate my results from Earth to Mars and from lab to field. Data generated in the lab and in the field will be folded back into the model to refine its accuracy and precision. This combined approach with lab, field, and numerical facets will allow me to estimate erosion rates for geomorphic features detected on martian dunes, and evaluate the effect of particle size and cohesion on erosion. All surfaces on Mars covered seasonally with CO2 ice can be examined within this framework.
Seasonal processes involving CO2 ice on Mars have no Earth-analog. This approach will be the first to quantify the relative efficacy of pressurized CO2 gas as an agent of erosion and to document the resultant surface changes under laboratory and field conditions.
See here also for additional project information.