Teach the Earth > Discoveries from Mars > Catalyst Ideas > Water, ice, & climate change

Ideas for Integrating Mars Data into Undergraduate Courses: Water, Ice, and Climate Change

The characteristics and implications of valley networks on Mars

  • Grid an area and have individual students map one portion of a valley network; have students work as a group to assemble a regional valley network map, evaluate stream order, calculate drainage density for the region, and compare to terrestrial values of stream order and drainage densities (Suggested for: climate change, geomorphology, hydrogeology, intro geology).
  • Compare the gradients of a number of Martian streams channels and compare them to each other and to values from Earth (Suggested for: geomorphology, hydrogeology, intro geology).
  • Determine gradients along the length of Martian channels. Do any show evidence of post-channel deformation? (Suggested for: geomorphology, hydrogeology, historical geology intro geology).
  • Do a fractal analysis of Martian valley networks, compare the results with those determined for outflow channels, and evaluate the results (Suggested for: historical geology, geomorphology, hydrogeology, intro geology).
  • Map a valley network, use MOLA data to construct stream profiles and cross sections. Use the Manning equation to estimate velocities, estimate discharge, and estimate the Froude number to determine whether the flow might have been tranquil or turbulent. Put these estimated values into perspective of terrestrial drainage basins (Suggested for: geomorphology, hydrogeology, intro geology).
  • Use regional slopes and valley profiles to determine where water would have gone on Mars (Suggested for: climate change, geomorphology, hydrogeology, intro geology).
  • Map a valley network and use MOLA data to determine a minimum estimate for the amount of material eroded (Suggested for: geomorphology, hydrogeology, intro geology).
  • Make a longitudinal profile of a Martian channel, determine changes in channel width/geometry downstream, and evaluate a comparison with terrestrial rivers (Suggested for: historical geology, geomorphology, hydrogeology, intro geology).
  • Examine areas where valley networks intersect impact craters and determine whether valley networks feed into, stop, or drain impact craters and what implications this has for timing of events (Suggested for: historical geology, geomorphology, hydrogeology, intro geology).

A northern ocean on Mars?

  • Use multiple data sets to evaluate what correlates with the proposed shorelines for a northern ocean on Mars and to evaluate whether an ocean is a reasonable hypothesis for the data as a whole (Suggested for: historical geology, geomorphology, hydrogeology, intro geology).
  • How might we estimate the volume of water and/or flow rates involved in outflow channel formation on Mars, and what assumptions would be involved in the estimate? How do these values compare to modern rivers and prehistoric catastrophic floods (e.g., the Missoula floods) on Earth? (Suggested for: hydrogeology, geomorphology, sedimentary geology, intro geology).
  • Use GRIDVIEW to calculate area and volume of a possible northern ocean on Mars, and put that volume into perspective by comparing with the volumes of bodies of water on Earth (Suggested for: hydrogeology, geomorphology, sedimentary geology, intro geology).

Ice on Mars

  • Have students measure crater diameters and determine the nature of ejecta (rampart "sploosh" ejecta or not), calculate the depth to subsurface ice, and determine how these depths vary across Mars (Suggested for: hydrogeology, climate change, intro geology).
  • Compare glacial features on Earth and in the Dry Valleys of Antarctica with features in THEMIS images suggesting flow on Mars and evaluate whether the flow features on Mars suggest glacial activity or other types of flow (Suggested for: hydrogeology, geomorphology, climate change, intro geology).

The Holden (Eberswalde) Delta on Mars

  • Estimate a volume for Holden Delta and compare it to the volume of the valley networks that feed it using MOLA data and GRIDVIEW (Suggested for: sedimentary geology geomorphology, hydrogeology, intro geology).

The Atmosphere, Gain and Loss of Water on Mars

  • Use deuterium/hydrogen ratios to calculate volume of water retained/lost from the atmospheres of Earth, Mars, and Venus and evaluate the comparison (Suggested for: sedimentary geology geomorphology, hydrogeology, intro geology).
  • As a way of helping students develop a sense of the importance of planetary degassing, have them do a back-of-the-envelope calculation to determine a value for the total amount of water that might have been released by volcanism in Tharsis, estimating the volume of volcanics and making reasonable assumptions about water content (Suggested for: petrology, hydrology, intro geology).
  • Evaluate the CO2 cycle on Mars and compare it to the CO2 cycle on Earth (Suggested for: climate change, hydrology, intro geology).

Changing Climate

  • Use channel distribution vs. age maps plus geologic maps and Rover data to evaluate when Mars might have been a wetter planet (Suggested for: historical geology, climate change, intro geology).
  • Do a jigsaw activity to have students evaluate evidence for and against a warmer, wetter Mars; one team investigates valley networks, a second investigates highland erosion, and a third investigate chemical weathering on Mars. In mixed groups, students learn about studies from other students and collectively evaluate whether evidence taken together suggests a warmer, wetter Mars and when that might have been (Suggested for: climate change, hydrogeology, intro geology).