Past surface processes on Mars

Research Summary

Sedimentary geology is at the forefront of planetary exploration, and application of our knowledge of sediment transport mechanics and physical sedimentology from terrestrial environments to Mars can yield fundamental insights into the history of surface processes on Mars. Our work is focused on two separate threads of research, which are aimed at better quantifying the past surface processes on Mars. First, we are interested in using the morphology and age of impact craters on Mars to constrain the temporal changes in surface erosion rates. Crater degradation can be modeled as a diffusion process, where sediment flux is a nonlinear function of crater wall slopes. Numerical modeling of crater degradation together with observations of changes in the morphology and morphometry of craters through time can help provide constraints on the nature and rate of surface processes for the Hesperian and Amazonian epochs on Mars. Second, we are interested in the application of our knowledge of how cross-stratification records the bed form kinematics and geometry to the Shaler outcrop, which is a fluvial sandbody that has been previously interpreted to record the evolution of superimposed bed forms on an accreting bar. We aim to better quantify the scale and kinematics of the bed forms and invert for formative flow depths using empirical scaling relations from terrestrial data. Our work has implications for evaluating the scale and hydraulic conditions of ancient martian rivers, which may yield insights into the hydrological cycle that once existed.

Selected Articles on this Topic

  • Sweeney, J., N. H. Warner, M. P. Golombek, V. Ganti, R. Fergason, R. Kirk, and F. Calef, Degradation of One-Hundred-Meter-Scale Impact Craters on Mars and Implications for Surface Process Rates in the Hesperian and Amazonian, Journal of Geophysical Research – Planets, to be submitted.
  • Golombek, M. P., N. H. Warner, V. Ganti, M. P. Lamb, T. J. Parker, R. L. Fergason, and R. Sullivan (2014), Small crater modification on Meridiani Planum and implications for erosion rates and climate change on Mars, J. Geophys. Res. – Planets, 119, 2522–2547, doi: 10.1002/2014JE004658.


Morphodynamics of Precambrian rivers


Hydrodynamic controls on the evolution of bed forms and resulting cross-stratification