Martian outflow channels: How did their source aquifers form, and why did they drain so rapidly?

J. Alexis P. Rodriguez, Jeffrey S. Kargel, Victor R. Baker, Virginia C. Gulick, Daniel C. Berman, Alberto G. Fairén, Rogelio Linares, Mario Zarroca, Jianguo Yan, Hideaki Miyamoto, Natalie Glines

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Catastrophic floods generated ∼3.2 Ga by rapid groundwater evacuation scoured the Solar Systems most voluminous channels, the southern circum-Chryse outflow channels. Based on Viking Orbiter data analysis, it was hypothesized that these outflows emanated from a global Hesperian cryosphere-confined aquifer that was infused by south polar meltwater infiltration into the planet s upper crust. In this model, the outflow channels formed along zones of superlithostatic pressure generated by pronounced elevation differences around the Highland-Lowland Dichotomy Boundary. However, the restricted geographic location of the channels indicates that these conditions were not uniform Boundary. Furthermore, some outflow channel sources are too high to have been fed by south polar basal melting. Using more recent mission data, we argue that during the Late Noachian fluvial and glacial sediments were deposited into a clastic wedge within a paleo-basin located in the southern circum-Chryse region, which was then completely submerged under a primordial northern plains ocean. Subsequent Late Hesperian outflow channels were sourced from within these geologic materials and formed by gigantic groundwater outbursts driven by an elevated hydraulic head from the Valles Marineris region. Thus, our findings link the formation of the southern circum-Chryse outflow channels to ancient marine, glacial, and fluvial erosion and sedimentation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number13404
JournalScientific reports
StatePublished - Sep 8 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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