Morphology and paleohydrology of intracrater alluvial fans north of Hellas Basin, Mars

By: , and 



Alluvial fans and sinuous ridges are both important records of the history of fluvial activity on Mars, and they often occur together. We present observations of alluvial fans, many of which exhibit inverted relief, in five craters in the region north of Hellas basin. The observed fans ranged in size from ~10 to 820 km2. We identified three primary fan surface morphology classes (chute, degraded, and Inverted) as well as many instances where the morphology transitions from proximal chutes (or, rarely, a cratered degraded surface) to distal ridges corresponding to increasing thermal inertia. Clear superposition relationships at contacts between adjacent fans are rarely observed, suggesting interfingered deposits and concurrent fan development across the region. Localized factors appear to influence fan development as there is no systematic trend in the azimuth range of fan location, size of fan or catchment, as well as the degree of crater filling. Water and sediment availability may be controlled by lithology differences and weather patterns. Many of the fans had a mismatch between catchment and fan volume, corresponding to significant amounts of erosion perhaps due to windblown stripping of fine sediment. However, several notable fans exhibited volumes greater than their corresponding catchments. This may reflect uncertainty in the accuracy of the estimated paleosurface, or it may indicate sediment contributions to the fan from outside the mapped catchment. Ridges, inferred to be the resistant remnants of fluvially transported deposits, were used to estimate flow magnitude in fan construction with computed discharges of 60–400 m3/s and corresponding supply rate runoff values ~1–20 mm/h. Acknowledging that width-derived discharge values may overestimate flow conditions due to the likelihood of amalgamated channel deposits, this quantification provides important climate constraints.

The upper range of runoff values and discharge rates are quite high, and would require either intense rain storms to generate immediate runoff, or longer-term snow accumulation and subsequent melt-runoff, potentially enhanced by rain-on-snow events. Minimum continuous formation time scales of less than a century are computed, but are incompatible with fan morphology (e.g., superposition relationships, embedded craters) and mechanisms to sustain flows. More realistic lower-limit fan construction times, accounting for modeled precipitation rates from the literature, are tens to hundreds of thousands of years. Fans were active in multiple events spanning the Hesperian to Amazonian periods, requiring transient climate conditions to support the fan aggradation.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Morphology and paleohydrology of intracrater alluvial fans north of Hellas Basin, Mars
Series title Icarus
DOI 10.1016/j.icarus.2022.115122
Volume 394
Year Published 2023
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Astrogeology Science Center
Description 115122, 22 p.
Other Geospatial Hellas Basin, Mars
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details