Episodic and Declining Fluvial Processes in Southwest Melas Chasma, Valles Marineris, Mars

Davis, J. M.; Grindrod, P. M.; Fawdon, P.; Williams, R. M. E.; Gupta, S. and Balme, M. (2018). Episodic and Declining Fluvial Processes in Southwest Melas Chasma, Valles Marineris, Mars. Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, 123(10) pp. 2527–2549.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1029/2018JE005710


There is abundant evidence for aqueous processes on Noachian terrains across Mars, however key questions remain about whether these processes continued into the Hesperian as the martian climate became less temperate. One region with an extensive Hesperian sedimentary record is Valles Marineris. We use high‐resolution image and topographic datasets to investigate the fluvial systems in the southwest Melas basin, Valles Marineris. Fluvial landforms in the basin exist across a wide area and some are preserved as inverted channels. The stratigraphy of the basin is complex: fluvial landforms are preserved as planview geomorphic features and are also interbedded with layered deposits in the basin. The fluvial morphologies are consistent with formation by precipitation‐driven runoff. Fluvial processes in the basin were episodic, suggesting multiple wet and dry periods. During dry periods, mantling material accumulated, and significant volumes of sediment were eroded, inverting fluvial channels. During wet periods, inverted channels and mantling material infilling valleys were incised by further fluvial erosion. These trends for episodic fluvial processes are similarly reflected in the central depression of the southwest Melas basin, previously described as a paleolake. Ultimately, fluvial processes in the basin gradually shut down, becoming geographically restricted, and then ceased entirely. We show that branching valley networks are also present on the plateaus above Melas and Ius Chasma, which converge on the heads of tributary canyons. These suggest that precipitation‐driven runoff processes also extended onto the plateaus of Valles Marineris.

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