The north pole of Mars is surrounded by a vast circumpolar region of sand dunes. These dunes exist in mean annual temperatures of -80°C, are covered by frosts for 70% of the year and are subject to annual snowfalls. On Earth, cold region sand dunes often contain inter-bedded sand, snow and ice. The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera captures images of the Martian surface at ~35 cm/pixel. This resolution is sufficient to characterize the small-scale surface morphology of Martian dunes. Using data from Antartica and other cold region deserts nine morphological signatures have been identified that suggest that dunes in the Martian north polar region may contain snow and ice deposits.

November 17, 2011

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