Sedimentology and climatic environment of alluvial fans in the martian Saheki crater and a comparison with terrestrial fans in the Atacama Desert
The deflated surfaces of the alluvial fans in Saheki crater reveal the most detailed record of fan stratigraphy and evolution found, to date, on Mars. During deposition of at least the uppermost 100 m of fan deposits, discharges from the source basin consisted of channelized flows transporting sediment (which we infer to be primarily sand- and gravel-sized) as bedload coupled with extensive overbank mud-rich flows depositing planar beds of sand-sized or finer sediment. Flow events are inferred to have been of modest magnitude (probably less than ∼60 m3/s), of short duration, and probably occupied only a few distributaries during any individual flow event. Occasional channel avulsions resulted in the distribution of sediment across the entire fan. A comparison with fine-grained alluvial fans in Chile’s Atacama Desert provides insights into the processes responsible for constructing the Saheki crater fans: sediment is deposited by channelized flows (transporting sand through boulder-sized material) and overbank mudflows (sand size and finer) and wind erosion leaves channels expressed in inverted topographic relief. The most likely source of water was snowmelt released after annual or epochal accumulation of snow in the headwater source basin on the interior crater rim during the Hesperian to Amazonian periods. We infer the Saheki fans to have been constructed by many hundreds of separate flow events, and accumulation of the necessary snow and release of meltwater may have required favorable orbital configurations or transient global warming.