Investigating gully flow emplacement mechanisms using apex slopes

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28 Scopus citations


The origin of the martian gullies has been much debated since their discovery by the Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC, Malin, M.C., Edgett, K.S. [2000]. Science 288, 2330-2335). Several previous studies have looked at slope gradients in and around gullies, but none have used Digital Elevation Models (DEMs) from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE, McEwen, A.S., and 14 colleagues [2007]. J. Geophys. Res. 112 (E05), E0505S02), which has a pixel scale down to 25. cm/pixel. We use five 1. m/post HiRISE DEMs to measure gully apex slopes, the local channel gradient at the upslope extent of the gully debris apron, which marks a shift from erosion to deposition. The apex slope provides information about whether a flow was likely a typical dry granular flow (begins depositing on slopes ~21°) or fluidized by some extra mechanism (depositing on shallower slopes). We find that 72% of the 75 gully fans studied were likely emplaced by fluidized flows. Relatively old gullies appear more likely to have hosted fluidized flows than relatively fresh gullies. This suggests a time and location dependent fluidizing agent, possibly liquid water produced in a different climate as previously proposed. Our results do not provide evidence for water-rich flows in gullies today.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)132-142
Number of pages11
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2010


  • Geological processes
  • Mars, Climate
  • Mars, Surface

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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