Flood-formed dunes in Athabasca Valles, Mars: Morphology, modeling, and implications

Devon M. Burr, Paul A. Carling, Ross A. Beyer, Nicholas Lancaster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations

Abstract

Estimates of discharge for martian outflow channels have spanned orders of magnitude due in part to uncertainties in floodwater height. A methodology of estimating discharge based on bedforms would reduce some of this uncertainty. Such a methodology based on the morphology and granulometry of flood-formed ('diluvial') dunes has been developed by Carling (1996b, in: Branson, J., Brown, A.G., Gregory, K.J. (Eds.), Global Continental Changes: The Context of Palaeohydrology. Geological Society Special Publication No. 115, London, UK, 165-179) and applied to Pleistocene flood-formed dunes in Siberia. Transverse periodic dune-like bedforms in Athabasca Valles, Mars, have previously been classified both as flood-formed dunes and as antidunes. Either interpretation is important, as they both imply substantial quantities of water, but each has different hydraulic implications. We undertook photoclinometric measurements of these forms, and compared them with data from flood-formed dunes in Siberia. Our analysis of those data shows their morphology to be more consistent with dunes than antidunes, thus providing the first documentation of flood-formed dunes on Mars. Other reasoning based on context and likely hydraulics also supports the bedforms' classification as dunes. Evidence does not support the dunes being aeolian, although a conclusive determination cannot be made with present data. Given the preponderance of evidence that the features are flood-formed instead of aeolian, we applied Carling's (1996b, in: Branson, J., Brown, A.G., Gregory, K.J. (Eds.), Global Continental Changes: The Context of Palaeohydrology. Geological Society Special Publication No. 115, London, UK, 165-179) dune-flow model to derive the peak discharge of the flood flow that formed them. The resultant estimate is approximately 2×106 m3/s, similar to previous estimates. The size of the Athabascan dunes' in comparison with that of terrestrial dunes suggests that these martian dunes took at least 1-2 days to grow. Their flattened morphology implies that they were formed at high subcritical flow and that the flood flow that formed them receded very quickly.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)68-83
Number of pages16
JournalIcarus
Volume171
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2004
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Geological processes
  • Mars surface
  • Surfaces planets
  • Terrestrial planets

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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