Possible pingos and a periglacial landscape in northwest Utopia Planitia

Richard J. Soare, Devon M. Burr, Jean Michel Wan Bun Tseung

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


Hydrostatic (closed-system) pingos are small, elongate to circular, ice-cored mounds that are perennial features of some periglacial landscapes. The growth and development of hydrostatic pingos is contingent upon the presence of surface water, freezing processes and of deep, continuous, ice-cemented permafrost. Other cold-climate landforms such as small-sized, polygonal patterned ground also may occur in the areas where pingos are found. On Mars, landscapes comprising small, elongate to circular mounds and other possible periglacial features have been identified in various areas, including Utopia Planitia, where water is thought to have played an important role in landscape evolution. Despite the importance of the martian mounds as possible markers of water, most accounts of them in the planetary science literature have been brief and/or based upon Viking imagery. We use a high-resolution Mars Orbiter Camera image (EO300299) and superposed Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter data tracks to describe and characterise a crater-floor landscape in northwest Utopia Planitia (64.8° N/292.7° W). The landscape comprises an assemblage of landforms that is consistent with the past presence of water and of periglacial processes. This geomorphological assemblage may have formed as recently as the last episode of high obliquity. A similar assemblage of landforms is found in the Tuktoyaktuk peninsula of northern Canada and other terrestrial cold-climate landscapes. We point to the similarity of the two assemblages and suggest that the small, roughly circular mounds on the floor of the impact crater in northwest Utopia Planitia are hydrostatic pingos. Like the hydrostatic pingos of the Tuktoyaktuk peninsula, the origin of the crater-floor mounds could be tied to the loss of ponded, local water, permafrost aggradation and the evolution of a sub-surface ice core.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)373-382
Number of pages10
Issue number2 SPEC. ISS.
StatePublished - Apr 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Geological processes
  • Ices
  • Mars, surface

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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