The Nili Fossae region, one of the most colorful regions of the planet Mars located on the northwest rim of Isidis impact basin, is shown in this photo taken February. 5, 2016, by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Reuters/NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

Mars seems like a dry and barren planet where sandstorms are more likely to occur than tsunamis. However, researchers have revealed interesting details on how the red planet’s sea edges got radically re-sculpted. More than three billion years ago, giant meteor impacts caused massive tsunamis in the northern planes that re-sculpted the edges of Mars’ ancient seas. The findings may provide important clues as regards life on Mars.

These monstrous tsunamis were commonplace on the red planet and were numbered in dozens over hundreds of millions of years. However, this study, published in the journal Nature’s Scientific Reports, only focused on two tsunamis that happened only a few million years apart. The second tsunami has proved to be crucial for hunting signs of early life on the red planet. The first giant tsunami carried boulders and debris hundreds of kilometres inland while the second one played havoc when Mars was extremely cold.

It tossed massive ice blocks and Mars was so cold then that the gigantic waves froze mid-air. The lobes of ice the tsunami cast off were probably made of water from ancient oceans. They froze and became time capsules billions of years ago. Scientists believe that the water was dense with salt to stay liquid even in negative temperatures.

“In spite of the extremely cold and dry global climatic conditions, the early Martian ocean likely had a briny composition that allowed it to remain in liquid form for as long as several tens of millions of years. Subfreezing briny aqueous environments are known to be habitable environments on Earth, and consequently, some of the tsunami deposits might be prime astrobiological targets,” said Alberto Fairén, lead author, visiting scientist in Cornell University's Department of Astronomy and research scientist at the Center for Astrobiology in Spain in a statement.

Interestingly, the billions of year old icy specimens are not far from Mars Pathfinder and future researchers travelling to Mars can easily collect samples. The study findings also reinforce the theory that Mars’ northern lowlands were transformed into massive oceans by huge floods about 3.4 billion years ago. The study answers “the puzzling absence of shorelines distributed along a constant elevation.” There is no other explanation that will answer the formations uncovered.

According to the lead author and researcher at the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson Alexis Rodriguez, the tsunami waves averaged 50 metres in height but rose up to the height of 30-storey buildings. They decimated shorelines and paced inwards.