Valley network-fed, open-basin lakes on Mars: Distribution and implications for Noachian surface and subsurface hydrology
A new catalog of 210 open-basin lakes (lakes with outlet valleys) fed by valley networks shows that they are widely distributed in the Noachian uplands of Mars. In order for an outlet valley to form, water must have ponded in the basin to at least the level of the outlet. We use this relationship and the present topography to directly estimate the minimum amount of water necessary to flood these basins in the past. The volumes derived for the largest lakes ( ∼3×10 to ∼2×10 km) are comparable to the largest lakes and small seas on modern Earth, such as the Caspian Sea, Black Sea, and Lake Baikal. We determine a variety of other morphometric properties of these lakes and their catchments (lake area, mean depth, volume, shoreline development, outlet elevation, and watershed area). Most candidate lakes have volumes proportional to and commensurate with their watershed area, consistent with precipitation as their primary source. However, other lakes have volumes that are anomalously large relative to their watershed areas, implying that groundwater may have been important in their filling. Candidate groundwater-sourced lakes are generally concentrated in the Arabia Terra region but also include the Eridania basin [Irwin, R.P., Howard, A.D., Maxwell, T.A., 2004a. J. Geophys. Res. 109, doi: 10.1029/2004JE002287. E12009; Irwin, R.P., Watters, T.R., Howard, A.D. Zimbelman, J.R., 2004b. J. Geophys. Res. 109, doi: 10.1029/2004JE002248. E09011] and several lakes near the dichotomy boundary. This areal distribution is broadly consistent with where groundwater should have reached the surface as predicted by current models. Both surface runoff and groundwater flow appear to have been important sources for lakes and lake chains, suggesting a vertically integrated hydrological system, the absence of a global cryosphere, and direct communication between the surface and subsurface hydrosphere of early Mars.