An intense terminal epoch of widespread fluvial activity on early Mars: 1. Valley network incision and associated deposits
We present evidence that a final epoch of widespread fluvial erosion and deposition in the cratered highlands during the latest Noachian or early to mid-Hesperian was characterized by integration of flow within drainage networks as long as 4000 km and trunk valley incision of 50 to 350 m into earlier Noachian depositional basins. Locally deltaic sediments were deposited where incised valley systems debouched into basins. Large alluvial fans of sediment deposited from erosion of alcoves in steep crater walls probably formed contemporaneously. The depth of incision below Noachian surfaces correlates strongly with the gradient and the total valley length, suggesting consistent regional hydrology. Estimated discharges from channel dimensions indicate flow rates equivalent to mean annual floods in terrestrial drainage basins of equivalent size. Such high flow rates imply either runoff directly from precipitation or rapid melting of accumulated snow. Development of duricrusts on the Noachian landscape may have contributed to focusing of late-stage erosion within major trunk drainages. This late-stage epoch of intense fluvial activity appears to be fundamentally different than the fluvial environment prevailing during most of the Noachian Period, which was characterized by widespread fluvial erosion of highlands and crater rims, deeply infilling crater floors, and intercrater basins through ephemeral fluvial activity, and development of local rather than regionally integrated drainage networks.
Journal of Geophysical Research (Planets)
- Pub Date:
- November 2005
- Planetary Sciences: Solar System Objects: Mars;
- Planetary Sciences: Solid Surface Planets: Erosion and weathering;
- Planetary Sciences: Solid Surface Planets: Surface materials and properties