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Ice needles weave patterns of stones in freezing landscapes
Li, A.; Matsuoka, N.; Niu, F.; Chen, J.; Ge, Z.; Hu, W.; Li, D.; Hallet, B.; van de Koppel, J.; Goldenfeld, N.; Liu, Q.-X. (2021). Ice needles weave patterns of stones in freezing landscapes. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 118(40): e2110670118.
In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. The Academy: Washington, D.C.. ISSN 0027-8424; e-ISSN 1091-6490, meer
Peer reviewed article  

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Author keywords
    sorted patterned ground; phase separation; ice needles; periglacial landform; freezing soils

Auteurs  Top 
  • Li, A.
  • Matsuoka, N.
  • Niu, F.
  • Chen, J.
  • Ge, Z.
  • Hu, W.
  • Li, D.
  • Hallet, B.
  • van de Koppel, J., meer
  • Goldenfeld, N.
  • Liu, Q.-X.

    Patterned ground, defined by the segregation of stones in soil according to size, is one of the most strikingly self-organized characteristics of polar and high-alpine landscapes. The presence of such patterns on Mars has been proposed as evidence for the past presence of surface liquid water. Despite their ubiquity, the dearth of quantitative field data on the patterns and their slow dynamics have hindered fundamental understanding of the pattern formation mechanisms. Here, we use laboratory experiments to show that stone transport is strongly dependent on local stone concentration and the height of ice needles, leading effectively to pattern formation driven by needle ice activity. Through numerical simulations, theory, and experiments, we show that the nonlinear amplification of long wavelength instabilities leads to self-similar dynamics that resemble phase separation patterns in binary alloys, characterized by scaling laws and spatial structure formation. Our results illustrate insights to be gained into patterns in landscapes by viewing the pattern formation through the lens of phase separation. Moreover, they may help interpret spatial structures that arise on diverse planetary landscapes, including ground patterns recently examined using the rover Curiosity on Mars.

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