Sinuous channels east of Olympus Mons, Mars: Implications for volcanic, hydrological, and tectonic processes

Sarah S. Sutton, Christopher W. Hamilton, Vincenzo Cataldo, David A. Williams, Jacob E. Bleacher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The Late Amazonian volcanic plains east of Olympus Mons contain numerous channels and fossae. Channel formation hypotheses have included volcanic processes, flowing water, or a combination of both. To evaluate these hypotheses, we conducted detailed geomorphological and facies mapping at two sites containing channels and fossae representative of features in the region. Based on our mapping and morphological analyses using high resolution topography and images from HiRISE and CTX data, we classified channels into three types, and fossae into two types. Channel Type 1 and Type 2 are consistent with the morphology of lava channels, however, we found no evidence of channel formation due to thermo-mechanical erosion. Additionally, we calculated the potential for lava to achieve turbulent flow within our two study sites and found it unlikely. Channel Type 3 is consistent with fluvial bedrock erosion, likely sourced from erupted groundwater that entrained regolith into lahar-like flows. Fossae are classified as linear (Type L) or arcuate and branched (Type A). Type L fossae are interpreted to be surface fractures associated with dike emplacement, whereas Type A fossae are interpreted to be surface fractures due to sill emplacement, which may have melted buried ice deposits and generated meltwater floods. Type 1 and Type 2 channels are associated with Type L fossae and fissure-fed effusive eruptions of lava. In contrast, Type 3 channels are co-located with Type A fossae, and are likely due to outbursts of groundwater possibly related to sill emplacement. We attribute the formation and distribution of channels and fossae throughout the plains east of Olympus Mons to be a consequence of the region's evolving states of stress, which are predominantly influenced by the loading of Olympus Mons.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number114798
StatePublished - Mar 1 2022


  • Geological processes
  • Mars, interior
  • Mars, surface
  • Tectonics
  • Volcanism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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