Stratigraphy of Aeolis Dorsa, Mars: stratigraphic context of the great river deposits

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Edwin S Kite, Alan Howard, Antoine Lucas, John C. Armstrong, Oded Aharonson, Michael P. Lamb


Unraveling the stratigraphic record is the key to understanding ancient climate and past climate
changes on Mars (Grotzinger et al. 2011). Stratigraphic records of river deposits hold particular promise because rain or snowmelt must exceed infiltration plus evaporation to allow sediment transport by rivers. Therefore, river deposits when placed in stratigraphic order could constrain the number, magnitudes, and durations of the wettest (and presumably most habitable) climates in Mars history. We use crosscutting relationships to establish the stratigraphic context of river and alluvial-fan deposits in the Aeolis Dorsa sedimentary basin, 10° E of Gale crater. At Aeolis Dorsa, wind erosion has exhumed a stratigraphic section of sedimentary rocks consisting of at least four unconformity-bounded rock packages, recording three or more distinct episodes of surface runoff. Early deposits (>700m thick) are embayed by river deposits (>400m thick), which are in turn unconformably draped by fan-shaped deposits (<100m thick) which we interpret as alluvial fans. Yardang-forming layered deposits (>900 m thick) unconformably drape all previous deposits. River deposits embay a dissected landscape formed of sedimentary rock. The river deposits are eroding out of at least two distinguishable units. There is evidence for pulses of erosion during the interval of river deposition. The total interval spanned by river deposits is >(1 × 10^6 – 2 × 10^7) yr, and this is extended if we include alluvial-fan deposits. Alluvial-fan deposits unconformably postdate thrust faults which crosscut the river deposits. This relationship suggests a relatively dry interval of >4 × 10^7 yr after the river deposits formed and before the fan-shaped deposits formed, based on probability arguments. Yardang-forming layered deposits unconformably postdate all of the earlier deposits. They contain rhythmite and their induration suggests a damp or wet (near-)surface environment. The time gap between the end of river deposition and the onset of yardang-forming layered deposits is constrained to >1 × 10^8 yr by the high density of impact craters embedded at the unconformity. The time gap between the end of alluvial-fan deposition and the onset of yardang-forming layered deposits was at least long enough for wind-induced saltation abrasion to erode 20-30 m into the alluvial-fan deposits. We correlate the yardang-forming layered deposits to the upper layers of Gale crater’s mound (Mt. Sharp / Aeolis Mons), and the fan-shaped deposits to Peace Vallis fan in Gale crater. Alternations between periods of low mean obliquity and periods of high mean obliquity may have modulated erosion-deposition cycling in Aeolis. This is consistent with the results from an ensemble of simulations of Solar System orbital evolution and the resulting history of the obliquity of Mars. Almost all of our simulations produce one or more intervals of continuously low mean Mars obliquity that are long enough to match our Aeolis Dorsa unconformity data.



Astrophysics and Astronomy, Earth Sciences, Other Earth Sciences, Physical Sciences and Mathematics, The Sun and the Solar System


stratigraphy, climate change, Mars, fluvial, Hesperian, Noachian


Published: 2018-04-03 13:37


Academic Free License (AFL) 3.0