Pervasive aqueous paleoflow features in the Aeolis/Zephyria Plana region, Mars

Devon M. Burr, Marie Therese Enga, Rebecca M.E. Williams, James R. Zimbelman, Alan D. Howard, Tracy A. Brennand

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

98 Scopus citations


A survey of THEMIS visible wavelength images in the Aeolis/Zephyria Plana region over the two western lobes of the equatorial Medusae Fossae Formation (MFF) shows ∼150 sinuous ridges having a variety of morphologies and contexts. To systematize investigation, we use a classification scheme including both individual ridge and ridge network types, as well as associations with impact craters and fan-shaped features. The morphology of the ridges, their location downslope from higher topography (e.g., crater rims and scarps), and their association with fan-shaped forms indicate that most sinuous ridges formed through overland aqueous flow. Analysis of observations by individual ridge type leads to interpretation of most of these sinuous ridges as inverted fluvial channels or floodplains and a few as possible eskers, with the origin of the remaining ridges under continuing investigation. About 15% of the sinuous ridges are associated with impact craters, but data analysis does not support a genetic relationship between the craters and the sinuous ridges. Instead, analysis of one sinuous ridge network associated with a crater indicates that the water source for the network was atmospheric in origin, namely, precipitation runoff. The broad areal distribution of these ∼150 ridges and the network morphologies, in particular the branched and subparallel types, suggest that an atmospheric water source is generally applicable to the population of sinuous ridges as a whole. This concentration of sinuous ridges is the largest single population of such landforms on Mars and among the youngest. These ridges are situated at a paleoscarp between Cerberus Palus and the Aeolis highlands, suggesting that the precipitation that formed them was orographic in origin. The ages of the equatorial MFF units in which this population of sinuous ridges is found imply that this orographic rain and/or snow fell during some period from the late Hesperian through the middle Amazonian.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)52-76
Number of pages25
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Geological processes
  • Mars
  • climate
  • surface

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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