Morphology, Morphometry and Distribution of Isolated Landforms in Southern Chryse Planitia, Mars

McNeil, Joseph D.; Fawdon, Peter; Balme, Matthew R. and Coe, Angela L. (2021). Morphology, Morphometry and Distribution of Isolated Landforms in Southern Chryse Planitia, Mars. Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, 126(5), article no. e2020JE006775.



The margin of Chryse Planitia, Mars, contains >10⁵ kilometer‐scale mesas, buttes, and plateaus (“mounds”), many of which are found in and around Oxia Planum, the ExoMars 2022 Rover landing site. Despite this, their origins and evolution are unknown. We have analyzed the morphologies and morphometries of 14,386 individual mounds to: (1) classify them based on their geomorphology; (2) constrain when they formed based on their stratigraphic and spatial relationships; and (3) develop hypotheses for their geological history. The mounds are classified as compound mounds, mesas, clustered mounds, and hills. Mound heights show that their elevations above the plains tend to a maximum height of 500 m. We interpret this as the thickness of a previously continuous layer that extended several hundred kilometers from the southern highlands into Chryse Planitia. Stratigraphy constrains the deposition of this layer to the Early‐Middle Noachian, correlatable to the phyllosilicate‐bearing strata of Mawrth Vallis, with similar layering also observable in some mounds, suggesting a genetic relationship. The mounds sometimes occur in circular arrangements, interpreted as an association with buried impact structures. We propose that the mounds formed through differential erosion after the premound layer was indurated by mineralization from groundwater in areas superposing underlying crustal weaknesses, for example, at buried crater margins. The subsequent differential erosion of this layer preferentially removed areas unaffected by this induration in the Late Noachian‐Early Hesperian leaving the mound population seen at present. These features present accessible three‐dimensional exposures of ancient layered rocks, and so are exciting targets for future study.

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