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Martian Gullies and their Earth Analogues

20 - 21 June 2016
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Organised by:
1. Geological Society Events, 2016 Year of Water
The Geological Society (Burlington House)
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Malin and Edgett first reported the existence of gullies on Mars in 2000. These landforms resemble terrestrial gullies and involve the transport of abundant debris down steep slopes. Malin and Edgett inferred that martian gullies were carved by liquid water from the subsurface, a result with enormous implications for Mars' climate and history and how it is recoded in its rocks, the alteration of Mars rocks and meteorites, the likelihood of viable martian life, and the availability of resources for human habitation.

Thus, our understanding of Martian gullies could be important in the design of spacecraft missions, and selection of landing sites. Since Malin and Edgett’s paper there have been a wide-range of theories proposed for the origin of these landforms, including, cryovolcanism, outbursts from deep and shallow aquifers, melting snow or ice, brine-flows, sediment-rich debris flows, frosted-granular flow, and mechanisms involving liquid and gaseous carbon dioxide, amongst others. Terrestrial analogues, such as those in Iceland, Svalbard, or the Antarctic Dry Valleys, have been used extensively to support/refute these various theories.

Despite the time elapsed since their discovery, a new debate has just ignited concerning the origin of gullies on Mars. There are two opposing camps: those who believe gullies are a result of climate-driven-melting of surficial ice deposits and those who believe gullies are formed by seasonal dry-ice sublimation.

These two end-members imply either that Mars has been unusually wet in recent millennia, or that it has remained a cold dry desert – both with profound implications for understanding the water budget of Mars and its habitability. This debate questions the limits of remote sensing data and how we interpret processes active on planetary surfaces, even beyond those on Mars.

Purpose and Scope

This meeting followed on from the original workshop on Martin gullies held in 2008 at LPI in Houston Texas. This took place 8 years after their first discovery and formed a focal point for researchers studying gullies through remote sensing, fieldwork studies of Earth analogues and laboratory simulation studies.

The aim of this second workshop was to not only to bring together the plethora of researchers involved in gully-research on Mars, but also to add a wider perspective by including contributions from those studying analogous environments on Earth such as, geomorphologists, sedimentologists glaciologists, hydrologists, climatologists, soil scientists and mineralogists/petrologists.

We particularly encouraged Earth Scientists working on sites or topics which could be considered as informative analogues for water on the Martian surface to attend. These wider perspectives add both depth and context, allowing researchers not traditionally attached to gully-research to add their outside expertise to the ongoing debate.

Keynote speakers included:

  • Bill Dietrich, University of California
  • Anne Mangeney, IPGP
  • Andrew McEwen, University of Arizona


  • Susan Conway (Open University)
  • Jonathan Carrivick (University of Leeds)
  • Paul Carling (University of Southampton)
  • Tjalling de Haas (Utrecht University)
  • Allan Treiman (LPI)

Day one sessions

Part 2: sessions 2-4

Session 2: Earth Analogues


- William E. Dietrich, UC Berkeley 

Gullies in Ladakh, India: potential analogues for Martian gullies

- Rishitosh Sinha, Physical Research Laboratory

Gullies and debris flows in continental Antarctica: analogues for recent aqueous processes on Mars

- Ernst Hauber

Session 3: Gullies, volatiles - CO2 and ices

Frost or wind or something else: investigating present day gully formation within the north polar erg

- Serina Dinega, Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Controls on sediment the transport capacity of carbon dioxide sublimation under Martian conditions: experimental results

- Matthew Sylvest, University of Arkansas (presented by Susan Conway)

Session 4: CO2, gully processes and experiments

Deep incision of the latitude dependent mantle in Martian gullies formed by CO2 sublimation process

- Francois Forget, Laboratoire de Meteorologie Dynamique (LMD)

The Unexpected geomorphological impact of metastable boiling water on Mars

- M. Masse, Universite de Nantes

Implications ofa non-Salt-Recharge SEL Mechanism for Martian Gullies as Remnants of an Earlier Wetter Period

- Samuel P. Kounaves, Tufts University, & Imperial College London

Experimental Simulation of Martian formation: a debris flow framework

- John Dixon, University of Arkansas

Day two sessions

Part 1: sessions 5-6

Session 5: Earth Analogues

New insights into processes influencing submarine gully morphology

- Jenny Gales, National Oceanography Centre

Session 6: Present Day Activity

Small Martian Gullies associated with recurring slopes lineae (RSL)

- Alfred McEwen, University of Arizona

Recent and present day activity of Martian Gullies

- Jan Raack, The Open University

Monitoring Martian gullies: Implications for formation and evolution

- Colin Dundas, US Geological Survey

Part 2: sessions 7-8

Session 7: Periglacial gullies

Patterns of Martian Deglaciations: assessing the distribution of paraglacial features in mid-latitude craters

- Erica Jawin

Thermal inertia of gully fans as an indicator of gully activity

- Tanya Harrision, University of Western Ontario

Day 2 session 8: Granular, numerical and software


- Anne Mangeney, IPGP 

Examination of origins of lobate landforms with gullies on Mars from an inverse analysis of debris-flow deposits

- Hajime Naruse

Event Partner


2016 is The Geological Society's Year of Water. 
Click here for more information on other events connected to the Year of Water 


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