Basaltic sand ripples at Eagle Crater as indirect evidence for the hysteresis effect in martian saltation

H. Yizhaq, J. F. Kok, Itzhak Katra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


The rover Opportunity documented small basaltic sand ripples at the bottom of Eagle Crater, Meridiani Planum on Mars. These ripples are composed of fine basaltic sand (~100. μm diameter) and their average wavelength and height are 10. cm and 1. cm, respectively. Present theories on the transition between saltation and suspension predict that such light particles are suspended by turbulence at the fluid threshold, which is the minimum wind speed required to initiate saltation. Consequently, the existence of these ~100. μm ripples on Mars indicates that either current suspension theories are incorrect, or that saltation can take place at wind speeds substantially below the fluid threshold. Indeed, recent studies point to the occurrence of hysteresis in martian saltation. That is, once initiated, hysteresis can be maintained at much lower wind speeds than the fluid threshold. We investigated the possible role of hysteresis in the formation of fine-grained ripples on Mars by coupling, for the first time, a detailed numerical saltation model (COMSALT) with a dynamic model for sand ripple formation. The results from the coupled model indicate that ripples with properties similar to those observed at Eagle Crater can be developed by the impact mechanism at shear velocities far below the fluid threshold. These findings are consistent with the occurrence of hysteresis in martian saltation, and support the hypothesis that hysteresis plays a role in the surprisingly large sand mobility observed at several locations on Mars.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-150
Number of pages8
StatePublished - 15 Feb 2014


  • Aeolian processes
  • Mars
  • Mars surface

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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