The Environment of Early Mars

Matsubara, Yo, Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia
Howard, Alan, Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia
Wiberg, Pat, Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia
D’Odorico, Paolo, Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia
de Wekker, Stephan, Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia
Johnson, Bob, Department of Materials Science & Engineering

A hydrologic routing model was applied to the Noachian cratered highlands to establish the climatic conditions required to maintain lakes and valley networks on early Mars. We used the ratio of precipitation and evaporation (the X-ratio) to express climatic conditions. Simulations were conducted using various X-ratios. The results from the lake analysis showed that many of the lakes that were not identified as overflowing probably overflowed as well. Because overflowing lakes can place constrain on possible climatic condition of early Mars, it is essential to identify as many overflowing craters as possible to understand the environment of early Mars. The multiple regression analyses indicate that incision depth is strongly influenced by gradient and weakly related to discharge. The factors determining incision depend partly on the type of channel bed. However, post-flow modification of the valleys precludes direct determination of bed morphology. We found through both lake and incision depth analysis that climatic conditions on early Mars were at least as moist as those that occurred in the Great Basin region during the Pleistocene (X ≤ 4). We also report on two studies motivated by the occurrence of sinuous paleochannels on Mars. Unconfined meanders require cohesive channel banks, which is obtained commonly by a vegetation cover coupled with high suspended sediment load. The Quinn River, Nevada is a sinuous channel that flows through lacustrine sediments resulting in the river having both bed and banks composed of sediment containing at least 40% mud. In addition, ion chromatography data and SEM images indicate the presence ii of high solute concentrations. In the absence of vegetation, bank cohesion is provided by mud with salts aiding flocculation and possibly providing additional cohesion through cementation. A 1D depth-averaged linearized meander evolution model was calibrated using the field data collected at the Quinn River. Both approaches gave similar results for the best fit parameter values. The model sufficiently replicated 38 years of channel migration. Topographic profiles across point bars are essentially invariant over a wide range of migration rates, suggesting that the traditional formulation that cut bank erosion processes govern migration rates is appropriate for the Quinn River.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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