A giant wall of red water rises suddenly to the height of a modern skyscraper and roars across Mars close to the speed of sound. According to researchers from the NASA Ames Research Center in California and the Planetary Science Institute in Arizona, this is what happened on Mars around 3.4 billion years ago when two mega-tsunamis ravaged the red planet.
The monster waves were powerful enough to drag along boulders that were up to 30 feet tall. When the water masses retreated to the sea, they had carved canals 32 miles long and up to 600 feet wide into the landscape.
Satellite images reveal the tsunamis
New satellite images of the Northern Plains of Mars put scientists on the trail of the violent events that probably took place a bit more than a billion years after the solar system formed. At the time, the red planet was likely both wet and much warmer than it is today.
Tsunamis were more than 350 feet tall
The waves most likely were created when two asteroids or comets, a few million years apart, drove down into the cold ocean in the northern hemisphere and each created a crater estimated to be almost 20 miles in diameter.
This triggered giant tidal waves which, according to the researchers ‘ calculations were initially at least 150 feet and in some places up to 360 feet high. While the first tsunami inundated an area of around 300.000 square miles – an area larger than the size of Texas – the second one flooded an area of around 386.000 square miles, the equivalent of the surface area of Texas and Arizona combined.
The study was based on digital topography images combined with thermal and visible images from the Mars Global Surveyor, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and Mars Odyssey.