Survey and Analysis of Arctic Fans in Svalbard, Norway as an Analog for Mars


  • Sydney Beltran


The islands of Svalbard, Norway are located between Scandinavia and the North Pole (78°50’50.36”N 18°19’00.95”E). This region is known for its glacier-filled frozen tundra environment. Along the coastline of Svalbard are fan shaped deposits of unconsolidated sediment that are frozen during winter months (mean low temperature -17°C in January) and fluidized during summer months (mean high temperature 5°C in July). These conditions make Svalbard a good terrestrial analog for Mars, where fan-shaped features suggest evidence of liquid water on the ancient surface. Comparing alluvial fans and fan-deltas on Earth to those on Mars, we can draw conclusions about the paleoclimate and geologic history of each planet.
In this study, 302 arctic fans were identified and measured on the islands of Svalbard using high-resolution satellite data (< 5 m/pixel). Images were acquired by NASA Landsat satellites and Digital Globe commercial satellites. With using the historic imaging provided, some remote sections of the islands only had older images available while the majority was more recent, higher quality images. Each fan was marked and measured at its widest diameter and all data and coordinates recorded in Google Earth and Excel. Fans range in size from less than a kilometer to over five kilometers in diameter, and some fans display asymmetrical geometries consistent with alongshore transport. Preliminary results show that fans in Svalbard record interactions between snow, ice, and overland water flow, similar to what climate models predict for fan-shaped features formed early in Mars’ history.






Earth Sciences