Modeling of Landslides in Valles Marineris, Mars, and Implications for Initiation Mechanism

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Río, Ian A. del
Jiménez Díaz, Alberto
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The Valles Marineris canyon system in Mars shows large landslides across its walls, which can be 40 km wide and up to 60 km long, with fall scarps height as high as 7 km. These landslides were produced through a large mass movement at high speed by gravity across the trough floor. Although the triggering factors are unclear, several mechanisms have been proposed as, among others, large amounts of subsurface water, quake produced through normal faulting close to the canyon walls, and meteoritic impacts. In this work we examine the limit equilibrium slope stability of three landslides (placed respectively at Ius, Candor, and Melas Chasmata), which can be considered representative, with the aims of constraining their formation conditions. Our results suggest that external factors (as high pore fluid pressure, seismic loading or rock mass disturbance) do not seem necessary for the failure of slopes if they are composed of unconsolidated materials, while high pore water pressure or ground acceleration are needed to trigger slides in slopes composed of strong basaltic-like materials. Moreover, the presence of sub-surface ice would contribute to slope stability. As a whole, our findings point to ground shaking due to meteorite impacts as the main triggering force for most landslides in the Valles Marineris.