A Caltech Library Service

Investigating Sand Transport and Landslides, and Implications for Past and Present Environments on Mars and Earth


Roback, Kevin Patrick (2021) Investigating Sand Transport and Landslides, and Implications for Past and Present Environments on Mars and Earth. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/gykg-wz60.


Wind-driven movement of sand and landslide activity are among the most important processes driving modern-day change on planetary surfaces. This thesis uses novel techniques and datasets to investigate the forces driving these processes on the surface of Mars, and also considers possible applications of the techniques described to Earth. Chapter 1 introduces past work done to understand these processes, and outstanding questions our work aims to answer. Chapter 2 presents and tests a new technique which aims to improve predictions of sand transport driven by wind on planetary surfaces by correcting coarse-resolution GCM predictions for the short-timescale fluctuations they miss. Chapter 3 presents new multiyear measurements of ripple migration at two dune fields on the surface of Mars, and applies these measurements, in conjunction with the new techniques described in Chapter 2, to investigate the dynamics of the Martian atmosphere, and test the accuracy of predictions made by Martian climate models. In Chapter 4, we study a large-scale natural sand trap in the Meroe Patera dune field on Mars, and estimate its trapped volume of sand in comparison to the volume of "missing" sand in a dune-free shadow zone downwind of the crater. The volume of trapped sand is far less than the missing volume, suggesting past escape of sand from the crater, despite a lack of obvious evidence for such escape in the present day. In Chapter 5, we change focus from sand transport to introduce an analysis of controls on the global distribution of Martian landslides. Chapter 6 discusses the limitations of applying the techniques of satellite image and climate model analysis described in Chapters 2-4 to terrestrial settings, as well as the possible utility of Chapter 5’s method on other planets.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Mars, sand transport, dunes, landslides, remote sensing, independent component analysis, automated image correlation
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Geological and Planetary Sciences
Major Option:Geology
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Avouac, Jean-Philippe (advisor)
  • Ehlmann, Bethany L. (co-advisor)
Thesis Committee:
  • Ingersoll, Andrew P. (chair)
  • Avouac, Jean-Philippe
  • Ehlmann, Bethany L.
  • Lamb, Michael P.
Defense Date:12 May 2021
Non-Caltech Author Email:kevinroback (AT)
Funding AgencyGrant Number
King Abulaziz City for Science and TechnologyUNSPECIFIED
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:05202021-183729767
Persistent URL:
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription 5 published. 4 published.
Roback, Kevin Patrick0000-0001-5209-2873
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:14167
Deposited By: Kevin Roback
Deposited On:03 Jun 2021 00:04
Last Modified:09 Jun 2021 15:56

Thesis Files

[img] PDF - Final Version
See Usage Policy.


Repository Staff Only: item control page