Lakes on Mars

Edited by

  • Nathalie Cabrol, SETI Carl Sagan Center/NASA Ames Research Center, USA
  • Edmond Grin, SETI Carl Sagan Center/NASA Ames Research Center, USA

On Earth, lakes provide favorable environments for the development of life and its preservation as fossils. They are extremely sensitive to climate fluctuations and to conditions within their watersheds. As such, lakes are unique markers of the impact of environmental changes. Past and current missions have now demonstrated that water once flowed at the surface of Mars early in its history. Evidence of ancient ponding has been uncovered at scales ranging from a few kilometers to possibly that of the Arctic ocean. Whether life existed on Mars is still unknown; upcoming missions may find critical evidence to address this question in ancient lakebeds as clues about Mars’ climate evolution and its habitability potential are still preserved in their sedimentary record.

Lakes on Mars is the first review on this subject. It is written by leading planetary scientists who have dedicated their careers to searching and exploring the questions of water, lakes, and oceans on Mars through their involvement in planetary exploration, and the analysis of orbital and ground data beginning with Viking up to the most recent missions. In thirteen chapters, Lakes on Mars critically discusses new data and explores the role that water played in the evolution of the surface of Mars, the past hydrological provinces of the planet, the possibility of heated lake habitats through enhanced geothermal flux associated with volcanic activity and impact cratering. The book also explores alternate hypotheses to explain the geological record. Topographic, morphologic, stratigraphic, and mineralogic evidence are presented that suggest successions of ancient lake environments in Valles Marineris and Hellas. The existence of large lakes and/or small oceans in Elysium and the Northern Plains is supported both by the global distribution of deltaic deposits and by equipotential surfaces that may reflect their past margins. Whether those environments were conducive to life has yet to be demonstrated but from comparison with our planet, their sedimentary deposits may provide the best opportunity to find its record, if any. The final chapters explore the impact of climate variability on declining lake habitats in one of the closest terrestrial analogs to Mars at the Noachian/Hesperian transition, identify the geologic, morphologic and mineralogic signatures of ancient lakes to be searched for on Mars, and present the case for landing the Mars Science Laboratory mission in such an environment.

View full description


astronomy scientist, sedimentologists, astrobiologists, planetary scientists


Book information

  • Published: September 2010
  • Imprint: ELSEVIER
  • ISBN: 978-0-444-52854-4

Table of Contents

Introductory Note (N.A. Cabrol). List of Acronyms. Foreword (Victor Baker). 1. Searching for Lakes on Mars: Three Decades of Exploration (N.A. Cabrol, E.A. Grin). 2. Acquisition and History of Water on Mars (M.H. Carr, J.W. Head). 3. Hydrologic Provinces on Mars: Physiographic Control on Drainage and Ponding (R.A. De Hon). 4. Heated Lakes on Mars (H.E. Newsom). 5. Lakes in Valles Marineris (B.K. Lucchitta). 6. Episodic Ponding and Outburst Flooding Associated with Chaotic Terrain in Valles Marineris (K. Harrison, M. Chapman). 7. Evidence for Ancient Lakes in the Hellas Region (S. Wilson, J.M. Moore, A. Howard, D. E. Wilhems). 8. Deltas and Valley Networks on Mars: Implications for a Global Hydrosphere (G. Di Achille, B.M. Hynek). 9. The Northern Plains: A Martian Oceanic Basin? (T.J. Parker, J.A. Grant, B.J. Franklin). 10. The Western Elysium Planitia Paleolake (M.R. Balme, C.J. Callagher, D.P. Page, J.B. Murray, J.-P. Muller, J.-R Kim). 11. The Sedimentary Record of Modern and Ancient Dry Lakes (G.G. Ori). 12. Aqueous Depositional Settings in Holden Crater, Mars, J.A. Grant, R.P. Irvin, III, S.A. Wilson). 13. Dynamics of Declining Lake Habitat in a Changing Climate (N.A. Cabrol, E.A. Grin). Index