Aeolian bedforms, yardangs, and indurated surfaces in the Tharsis Montes as seen by the HiRISE Camera: Evidence for dust aggregates

N. T. Bridges, M. E. Banks, R. A. Beyer, F. C. Chuang, E. Z. Noe Dobrea, K. E. Herkenhoff, L. P. Keszthelyi, K. E. Fishbaugh, A. S. McEwen, T. I. Michaels, B. J. Thomson, J. J. Wray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


HiRISE images of Mars with ground sampling down to 25 cm/pixel show that the dust-rich mantle covering the surfaces of the Tharsis Montes is organized into ridges whose form and distribution are consistent with formation by aeolian saltation. Other dusty areas near the volcanoes and elsewhere on the planet exhibit a similar morphology. The material composing these "reticulate" bedforms is constrained by their remote sensing properties and the threshold curve combined with the saltation/suspension boundary, both of which vary as a function of elevation (atmospheric pressure), particle size, and particle composition. Considering all of these factors, dust aggregates are the most likely material composing these bedforms. We propose that airfall dust on and near the volcanoes aggregates in situ over time, maybe due to electrostatic charging followed by cementation by salts. The aggregates eventually reach a particle size at which saltation is possible. Aggregates on the flanks are transported downslope by katabatic winds and form linear and "accordion" morphologies. Materials within the calderas and other depressions remain trapped and are subjected to multidirectional winds, forming an interlinked "honeycomb" texture. In many places on and near the volcanoes, light-toned, low thermal inertia yardangs and indurated surfaces are present. These may represent "duststone" formed when aggregates reach a particle size below the threshold curve, such that they become stabilized and subsequently undergo cementation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)165-182
Number of pages18
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2010


  • Mars
  • Surface

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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