Geological and hydrological histories of the Argyre province, Mars

J. M. Dohm, T. M. Hare, S. J. Robbins, J. P. Williams, R. J. Soare, M. R. El-Maarry, S. J. Conway, D. L. Buczkowski, J. S. Kargel, M. E. Banks, A. G. Fairén, D. Schulze-Makuch, G. Komatsu, H. Miyamoto, R. C. Anderson, A. F. Davila, W. C. Mahaney, W. Fink, H. J. Cleaves, J. YanB. Hynek, S. Maruyama

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


The geologic history of the multi-ringed Argyre impact basin and surroundings has been reconstructed on the basis of geologic mapping and relative-age dating of rock materials and structures. The impact formed a primary basin, rim materials, and a complex basement structural fabric including faults and valleys that are radial and concentric about the primary basin, as well as structurally-controlled local basins. Since its formation, the basin has been a regional catchment for volatiles and sedimentary materials as well as a dominant influence on the flow of surface ice, debris flows, and groundwater through and over its basement structures. The basin is interpreted to have been occupied by lakes, including a possible Mediterranean-sized sea that formed in the aftermath of the Argyre impact event. The hypothesized lakes froze and diminished through time, though liquid water may have remained beneath the ice cover and sedimentation may have continued for some time. At its deepest, the main Argyre lake may have taken more than a hundred thousand years to freeze to the bottom even absent any heat source besides the Sun, but with impact-induced hydrothermal heat, geothermal heat flow due to long-lived radioactivities in early martian history, and concentration of solutes in sub-ice brine, liquid water may have persisted beneath thick ice for many millions of years. Existence of an ice-covered sea perhaps was long enough for life to originate and evolve with gradually colder and more hypersaline conditions. The Argyre rock materials, diverse in origin and emplacement mechanisms, have been modified by impact, magmatic, eolian, fluvial, lacustrine, glacial, periglacial, alluvial, colluvial, and tectonic processes.Post-impact adjustment of part of the impact-generated basement structural fabric such as concentric faults is apparent. Distinct basin-stratigraphic units are interpreted to be linked to large-scale geologic activity far from the basin, including growth of the Tharsis magmatic-tectonic complex and the growth into southern middle latitudes of south polar ice sheets. Along with the migration of surface and sub-surface volatiles towards the central part of the primary basin, the substantial difference in elevation with respect to the surrounding highlands and Tharsis and the Thaumasia highlands result in the trapping of atmospheric volatiles within the basin in the form of fog and regional or local precipitation, even today. In addition, the impact event caused long-term (millions of years) hydrothermal activity, as well as deep-seated basement structures that have tapped the internal heat of Mars, as conduits, for far greater time, possibly even today. This possibility is raised by the observation of putative open-system pingos and nearby gullies that occur in linear depressions with accompanying systems of faults and fractures. Long-term water and heat energy enrichment, complemented by the interaction of the nutrient-enriched primordial crustal and mantle materials favorable to life excavated to the surface and near-surface environs through the Argyre impact event, has not only resulted in distinct geomorphology, but also makes the Argyre basin a potential site of exceptional astrobiological significance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)66-98
Number of pages33
StatePublished - Jun 1 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Astrobiology.
  • Geological processes.
  • Mars.
  • Tectonics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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