Concentric crater fill in the northern mid-latitudes of Mars: Formation processes and relationships to similar landforms of glacial origin
Hypotheses accounting for the formation of concentric crater fill (CCF) on Mars range from ice-free processes (e.g., aeolian fill), to ice-assisted talus creep, to debris-covered glaciers. Based on analysis of new CTX and HiRISE data, we find that concentric crater fill (CCF) is a significant component of Amazonian-aged glacial landsystems on Mars. We present mapping results documenting the nature and extent of CCF along the martian dichotomy boundary over -30 to 90°E latitude and 20-80°N longitude. On the basis of morphological analysis we classify CCF landforms into "classic" CCF and "low-definition" CCF. Classic CCF is most typical in the middle latitudes of the analysis area (∼30-50°N), while a range of degradation processes results in the presence of low-definition CCF landforms at higher and lower latitudes. We evaluate formation mechanisms for CCF on the basis of morphological and topographic analyses, and interpret the landforms to be relict debris-covered glaciers, rather than ice-mobilized talus or aeolian units. We examine filled crater depth-diameter ratios and conclude that in many locations, hundreds of meters of ice may still be present under desiccated surficial debris. This conclusion is consistent with the abundance of "ring-mold craters" on CCF surfaces that suggest the presence of near-surface ice. Analysis of breached craters and distal glacial deposits suggests that in some locations, CCF-related ice was once several hundred meters higher than its current level, and has sublimated significantly during the most recent Amazonian. Crater counts on ejecta blankets of filled and unfilled craters suggests that CCF formed most recently between ∼60 and 300 Ma, consistent with the formation ages of other martian debris-covered glacial landforms such as lineated valley fill (LVF) and lobate debris aprons (LDA). Morphological analysis of CCF in the vicinity of LVF and LDA suggests that CCF is a part of an integrated LVF/LDA/CCF glacial landsystem. Instances of morphological continuity between CCF, LVF, and LDA are abundant. The presence of formerly more abundant CCF ice, coupled with the integration of CCF into LVF and LDA, suggests the possibility that CCF represents one component of the significant Amazonian mid-latitude glaciation(s) on Mars.