Abstract. Spiral-shaped canyons on the polar ice caps of Mars are striking morphological features whose explanation is still mysterious. We pose a model for the kinetics at the ice-atmosphere interface based on the positive feedback properties of both dust and ice albedo within the north polar ice cap, together with katabatic wind transport of exposed dust. Analysis of this model indicates that traveling waves are possible, but only solitary waves are found in the numerical solution. This suggests that the traveling wave hypothesis for trough formation may not be an appropriate explanation. Key words. Mars, polar ice caps, spiral waves, phase plane analysi
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