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A Complete Depositional System in Melas Chasma, Mars

Metz, Joannah M.1; Grotzinger, John P.1; Mohrig, David 2; Prather, Bradford 3; Pirmez, Carlos 3; McEwen, Alfred S.4; Weitz, Catherine M.5
1 Geological and Planetary Science, Caltech, Pasadena, CA.
2 Geological Sciences, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX.
3 Shell Exploration and Production Company, Houston, TX.
4 Lunar and Planetary Lab, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ.
5 Planetary Science Institute, Tucson, AZ.

Identification of complete source-to-sink systems on Mars is rare, because commonly parts of the system are not preserved, are eroded, or are covered by later deposition. Southern Melas Basin in Valles Marineris is an exception, as it could represent a complete erosional to depositional system, from the fluvially-incised source region in the surrounding highlands to the terminal sediment sink formed by the sublacustrine fans in the topographically lowest part of the basin. Fluvial incision of bedrock, interpreted as caused by runoff from precipitation, drains the ridges bordering the western and eastern parts of the basin. Sediments generated during erosion of the upland areas were transported by fluvial drainage systems to form a classic, cone-shaped alluvial fan at the western edge of the basin. Sediments which pass through the alluvial fan were deposited as clinoforms, which may record a potential shoreline or upslope channel levee part of the submarine fan system. The clinoforms give way further down the topographic profile to a sublacustrine fan, very similar in morphology to the Mississippi submarine fan. This ultimate depositional low in the system provides the terminal sink for the sediments. The presence of sublacustrine fans in Melas Chasma indicates that a significant body of water was present and stable at the surface of Mars for at least 100 to 10000 years, which provides important constraints for past environmental conditions on Mars.

 

AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90090©2009 AAPG Annual Convention and Exhibition, Denver, Colorado, June 7-10, 2009