Monday, August 25, 2014

Tracking Historical Water in the Melas Basin, on Mars

Reconstructing the aqueous history within the southwestern Melas basin, Mars: Clues from stratigraphic and morphometric analyses of fans


Williams et al


New details of the aqueous history in the southwestern Melas Chasma elevated basin have been revealed from analysis of high-resolution image, topographic and spectral datasets. We have identified eleven fan-shaped landforms that reflect various depositional environments. A distinctive marker bed with inferred indurated aeolian bedforms is within the stratigraphic record of presumed lacustrine deposits. This observation, taken together with the stratigraphic succession of fan-shaped deposits indicates fluctuating lake levels with, at a minimum, early and late-stage lake highstands. Tributary drainage pattern in the western valley network changed from a dendritic to a meandering system, recording a shift in fluvial activity that is consistent with fluctuating lake levels. Only a few hydrated minerals have been detected in the study region, the most common being opal which appears to represent younger alteration and deposition within the basin. Landform scale was used to estimate average discharge (∼30 m3/s), formative discharge (200–300 m3/s), and fan formation timescale, which further inform the duration of lacustrine activity within the basin. Warm surface conditions and precipitation recharge of source basins is required to generate and sustain this long-lived lake over periods of at least centuries to millennia during the Late Hesperian to Early Amazonian.

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