by Ben Panko/Smithsonianmag.com
Along with that iconic red dust, the planet Mars is covered by a dramatic topography, including the solar system’s highest mountain, countless impact craters and large series of canyons and valleys. Now, new research theorizes that some of those gorges could have been carved out of the Martian landscape by enormous floods as climate change melted the planet’s glaciers, according to a paper published last week in the journal Nature.
Mars is famously dry and dusty today, but billions of years ago the planet likely hosted a thick atmosphere and large amounts of liquid water. While research about whether that wet, warm Mars hosted life is still ongoing, it’s also increasingly clear that the effects of that time period can still be found deeply etched on the planet’s surface in the present day.
The wet Mars of yore was also one under regular bombardment by asteroids, and it’s likely that the craters caused by these impacts became lakes filled with water, reports Charles Q. Choi of Space.com. As climate change began to spiral out of control on the Red Planet, these lakes appear to have breached, releasing large amounts of water across the planet’s surface.