back to article Slow down, ice-on-Mars fans: Those 'streams' on Red Planet may be caused by landslides

The mountains and ridges on Mars – which some believe are carved from melting ice – can also be formed by landslides, according to a paper published in Nature Communications on Thursday. Scientists, led by the eggheads at University College London in England, have effectively cast doubt over previous studies that support the …

  1. Chozo

    Fascinatingly plausable

    I wonder if UCL could run the same analysis for the curious erosion around the Sphinx enclosure.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Fascinatingly plausable

      That's centuries of passing camels stopping for a piss, everybody knows that.

      More seriously, that's nothing more than ventifacts caused by the same aeolian processes that produced the yardang that makes up the body of the Great Sphinx. In English, wind driven sand opened up existing cracks in the limestone.

      Have you Brits given the poor critter his beard back yet?

    2. MyffyW Silver badge

      Rocks falling at 360 kilometers per hour?

      That is rather fast, when acceleration due to gravity is only 3.8m per s squared.

      Quick back-of-fluoxetine-packet calculation suggests:

      In free fall (discounting thin martian atmosphere and any stubborn mountain goats) you'd cover 1.3Km before reaching that speed. I know they've got some tall mountains on Mars, but .... wow

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: Rocks falling at 360 kilometers per hour?

        That must be a reg typo.

        1. Kibble 2

          Re: Rocks falling at 360 kilometers per hour?

          One has to remember that the atmosphere on Mars is very thin, and will cause much less drag on falling masses. However, I expect that the estimate of 360 kph down a slope is still just an outside guess, and may be a rare event. Best to go there and observe.

      2. Muscleguy Silver badge

        Re: Rocks falling at 360 kilometers per hour?

        It's a volcano and lahars can break the sound barrier here on earth.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Rocks falling at 360 kilometers per hour?

          120mph is pretty fast, but nowhere near the speed of sound!

          1. Robert Helpmann??

            Re: Rocks falling at 360 kilometers per hour?

            120mph is pretty fast, but nowhere near the speed of sound!

            Hold on, now! That's definitely faster than the speed of sound in a vacuum.

            Mine's the one with an airtight seal.

            1. fishman

              Re: Rocks falling at 360 kilometers per hour?

              Sound in a vacuum? In space, no one can hear you scream.

        2. jake Silver badge

          Re: Rocks falling at 360 kilometers per hour?

          "lahars can break the sound barrier here on earth."

          From what I remember, lahars don't even break 25MPH ... I think what you are thinking about is a pyroclastic flow, which can be quite fast (over 400MPH), but not speed of sound fast.

      3. jake Silver badge

        Re: Rocks falling at 360 kilometers per hour?

        I just got around to reading the linked articles. I have no idea where UCL News got the 360km/hr number. The paper published in Nature says "We infer that the velocity of the martian landslide could range between 77 m/s and 345 m/s."[0]. That's 277km/hr to 1242km/hr(‽‽‽) ... However, it goes on to say "the inferred velocity may be overestimated". Gee, you think?

        Note also that TFA does NOT say there is no ice or water on Mars. What it says is that for some landslides, ice or water is not needed to create the formations observed.

        This public service announcement brought to you by the number 7 and the letter M. We now return you to your regularly scheduled bickering.

        [0] For us unenlightened Yanks, that's around 170 to 770MPH, or 250 to 1130 feet/sec.

  2. jake Silver badge

    I'm pretty sure that ...

    ... sturzstrom were suggested a couple decades ago as one method that could have formed those features. I'm fairly certain that the consensus was that only water could have formed some of them, though.

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: I'm pretty sure that ...

      Dry lahars behave like water. This is the desire for water overriding science. I've been saying for ages that most of the water features on Mars could be created by sand and wind and gravity. I had the misfortune to have a science professor for a dad and he had dragged us across miles to see such things as laminated sand stones created by wind blown dunes in Scotland. At other times merely playing in sand reveals many of the water features found on Mars. The dry air there may even help to account for 'lake beds' where static causes dust to float resulting in the flat plains seen on Mars, and also at the bottom of craters on asteroids and the Moon. Its always worth remembering that the wear and tear on Egyptian monuments in 3000 years is quite severe in places. Mars has probably been bone dry for 3.5Billion!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I'm pretty sure that ...

        This. When you let wishful thinking and culture set the *conclusion* to your experiments, you no longer have science.

        No one denies the observations (and still is considered sane ;) ), but many many times I consider the conclusions must be taken with a massive grain of salt!

      2. Blockchain commentard

        Re: I'm pretty sure that ...

        Pretty sure water features are created by water!!!! Slides, channels etc. are created by the Martian weevils falling down the rock faces.

      3. jake Silver badge

        Re: I'm pretty sure that ...

        Did you see where I typed "suggested", "one method" and "could have"? There is a reason I used those words ...

        On the other hand, how was the weather when you visited Mars to confirm you emphatic assertion that Mars "has been bone dry for 3.5Billion!"? Have you shared your first-hand data with other scientists, so we can stop the charade of mars robots?

  3. Wellyboot Silver badge

    Possibilities are endless

    Just send a set of geologists and some industrial sized core drilling equipment over there and actually find out.

    We'll get a lot of answers very quickly. (and a lot of further funding if they strike oil)

    1. Hans 1

      Re: Possibilities are endless

      Oil or lack thereof is not a problem, anymore ... our problem is climate change. You could find gigatons of oil there, we will not want to go and get it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Possibilities are endless

        But the Left Pondians will definitely want to go and invade Mars for it (and in the current political climate, probably build golf courses too).

        1. Francis Boyle

          On the positive side

          A naked Trump on Mars should be practically invisible. All that would be be left would be a self-pitying whine progressively drowned out by the sound of the Martian wind..

  4. batfink Silver badge


    Dust flows - a likely story. It's Barsoomian engineering of course.

    The only debate is which tribe is responsible for using up all the water.

    1. Charlie van Becelaere

      Re: Pah

      Could be Therns, eh?

  5. TVU

    Slow down, ice-on-Mars fans: Those 'streams' on Red Planet may be caused by landslides

    While in this instance the cause might indeed be flowing sand and dust, there are plenty of other places on the surface of Mars where it is clear that liquid water (even if only temporary and periodically) has flowed across the landscape.

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Slow down, ice-on-Mars fans: Those 'streams' on Red Planet may be caused by landslides

      Can you tell us which ones these are? We assume things are created by water on Mars because similar things are created by (or with) water here. That does not mean the only mechanism to create them is water. Contrarily, the very dryness of Mars can allow dust and rocks to flow like water far more easily than it can here on earth. Without any water to prevent or dampen activity rocks and dust, once fluid, flow very freely - on a gentle slope they behave as a fluid, but with far more erosive power.

      And wind can blow dust that, with overnight dews etc can form layers that are identical to deposits you'd expect from water.

      Someone should get a dehydrated sandpit in a low atmospheric pressure chamber and have a play - there's a few PhDs in that.

      1. My-Handle Silver badge

        Re: Slow down, ice-on-Mars fans: Those 'streams' on Red Planet may be caused by landslides

        I believe that signs of hydrated minerals have been found at several points. These only form in the (possibly temporary) presence of water.

        This is the first legitimate-looking source I found for the above, there may be others:

  6. Zog_but_not_the_first

    Easily resolved...

    "Get your arse to Mars".

  7. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    University College London in England

    Damn, I though it was the one in Ontario[1]

    {1[, that would be Ontario, Canada, in case you were asking!

  8. 89724102172714182892114I7551670349743096734346773478647892349863592355648544996312855148587659264921

    Landslides can't cause streams out of Uranus

  9. gnarlymarley

    timing issue?

    “While we aren’t ruling out the presence of ice, we know is that ice wasn’t needed to form the long run-outs we analysed on Mars,” said Tom Mitchell, co-author of the paper and an associate professor of earthquake geology and rock physics at University College London.

    I wonder if the reason they cannot find ice is that they are looking at the wrong time. Maybe in the storms or the extreme cold is when they need to be looking? With the temperature fluctuation they way it is, maybe it goes to a gas during the day and ice at night.

    I would suggest the same reason why the FBI and CGHQ cannot find anything before it happens is they are looking at too much data, the wrong time, and in the wrong places.

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