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TitleDeep groundwater circulation through the High Arctic cryosphere forms Mars-like gullies
AuthorGrasby, S E; Proemse, B C; Beauchamp, B
SourceGeology vol. 42, no. 8, 2014 p. 651-654,
Alt SeriesEarth Sciences Sector, Contribution Series 20130504
PublisherGeological Society of America
Mediapaper; digital; on-line
File formatpdf
NTS340C/04; 340C/05
AreaIce River; Otto Fiord; Ellesmere Island
Lat/Long WENS -88.0000 -86.0000 81.5000 81.0000
Subjectshydrogeology; extraterrestrial geology; groundwater; groundwater resources; groundwater regimes; groundwater circulation; cryosphere
Illustrationslocation maps; cross-sections; photographs; plots
ProgramGEM2: Geo-mapping for Energy and Minerals, Western Arctic Sverdrup Basin
Released2014 08 01
AbstractWe report here the discovery of the northernmost known perennial spring, located in the polar desert of the Canadian High Arctic (average precipitation 75.5 mm/yr; average annual air temperature -19.7 °C). The high-discharge spring (~520 L/s) has also anomalously high temperatures (9.0 °C), despite occurring in a region of low geothermal gradient and thick (>400 m) permafrost. Active erosion at the spring outlet forms gullies with alcove-channel-apron morphology, remarkably similar to archetypal gullies observed on mid-latitude regions of Mars. Geochemical and isotopic data show a meteoric origin for the waters, demonstrating that deep circulating groundwater systems can form active connections through the cryosphere to the subsurface, even in the absence of thermal anomalies. This discovery challenges current understanding of high-latitude permafrost hydrology.
Summary(Plain Language Summary, not published)
The highest latitude perennial spring known on Earth was discovered by GSC scientists on northern Ellesmere Island as part of GEM related activities. This discovery demonstrates that contrary to common assumption, active deep groundwater systems can circulate through the thick permafrost of the High Arctic. This has potential implication for future sustainable resource developments as it shows permafrost does not always form an effective barrier between surface activities and deep groundwater systems. An interesting sideline of this discovery is the remarkable similarities of the gully carved at the spring outlet with those observed on Mars. This lends support to models that invoke groundwater discharge as the gully forming agent on that planet.