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MARS: TEMPE

by Chris Wayan, 2003

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Orbital photo of a terraformed Mars 1000 years from now: Tempe and northern Tharsis. Model by Wayan. Click to enlarge.


Tempe is a cool green land west of Chryse Gulf and north of Kasei. It's rough, ridgy, and unusually cratered for the northern hemisphere. More active geologically, the north has erased most impact craters. Tempe is different; Tempe is old. The constant rains have filled the craters with lakes up to 100 km across: Lake Timoshenko, Lake Barabashov, and (my favorite name) Lake Perepelkin.

The land is dotted with small volcanoes (small for Mars, I mean; Mt. Coriolanus, the snowy peak in the upper right near the sea, is impressive by any other world's standards--miles high).

Tempe's coast, like many on Mars, is simple on a large scale--just a big blunt tongue sticking into the northern ocean. But locally it's ragged, even fractal--endless mesa-islands covered in hardwood forest. Fall here is spectacular, with red and gold islands rising from a dusky violet sea...

Inland, as the land rises toward the Tharsis Bulge, it grows cold, but the rise squeezes moisture from the air, feeding low conifer forests and alpine meadows. Lichen-eaters, particularly reindeer and Martian mammoth, roam these strange uplands, gashed with deep fossae where dark woods line deep, narrow lakes. Freshwater fjords.

Higher still, the plateaus turn salmon and pink with alternating, undulating topographic layers of snow, dust, and red rock--in places, it's reminiscent of the layered Arctic terrain, now lost under the northern sea.

Two great ridge-and-groove complexes cut across the land southwest-northeast--Mareotis Fossae (left, higher, running further inland) and Tempe Fossae (right). On Earth they'd pass for mountain ranges, though even Mareotis is just knee-high to the volcanoes of Tharsis to the southwest.

At the bottom left are the first and least of those Tharsian volcanoes: Mt Ceraunius (white cone), Uranius Tholus (smaller, to northwest--still Himalayan) and the lowest but largest, Uranius Patera, a wide caldera sporting (of all things) a lake--unnatural at this alpine altitude.

Lake Uranius is kept partly ice-free by thermal vents--a milky blue eye in an otherwise stark world of red and white. Its humid plume feeds ice-fogs and snow flurries all over Tharsis and upper Tempe, allowing pockets of life in fossae and craters--though that life is still mostly lichen and tundra grass. These grow slowly, but undisturbed, for few animals thrive in the high, thin air.

Yet Tempe's highest points are a mere five or ten kilometers up, barely as high as Everest, or the feet of the Big Four farther south and west...

Map of Mars. Click a feature to go there.
Index of Martian place names. Or for a tour, the following route snakes around Mars, covering all major features:


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