The role of arcuate ridges and gullies in the degradation of craters in the Newton Basin region of Mars

Daniel C. Berman, William K. Hartmann, David A. Crown, Victor R. Baker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


A survey of craters in the vicinity of Newton Basin, using high-resolution images from Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Odyssey, was conducted to find and analyze examples of gullies and arcuate ridges and assess their implications for impact crater degradation processes. In the Phaethontis Quadrangle (MC-24), we identified 225 craters that contain these features. Of these, 188 had gullies on some portion of their walls, 118 had arcuate ridges at the bases of the crater walls, and 104 contained both features, typically on the same crater wall. A major result is that the pole-facing or equator-facing orientation of these features is latitude dependent. At latitudes >44° S, equator-facing orientations for both ridges and gullies are prevalent, but at latitudes <44° S, pole-facing orientations are prevalent. The gullies and arcuate ridges typically occupy craters between ∼2 and 30 km in diameter, at elevations between -1 and 3 km. Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA) elevation profiles indicate that most craters with pole-facing arcuate ridges have floors sloping downward from the pole-facing wall, and some of these craters show asymmetry in crater rim heights, with lower pole-facing rims. These patterns suggest viscous flow of ice-rich materials preferentially away from gullied crater walls. Clear associations exist between gullies and arcuate ridges, including (a) geometric congruence between alcoves and sinuous arcs of arcuate ridges and (b) backfilling of arcuate ridges by debris aprons associated with gully systems. Chronologic studies suggest that gullied walls and patterned crater floor deposits have ages corresponding to the last few high obliquity cycles. Our data appear consistent with the hypothesis that these features are associated with periods of ice deposition and subsequent erosion associated with obliquity excursions within the last few tens of millions of years. Arcuate ridges may form from cycles of activity that also involve gully formation, and the ridges may be in part due to mass-wasted, ice-rich material transported downslope from the alcoves, which then interacts with previously emplaced floor deposits. Most observed gullies may be late-stage features in a degradational cycle that may have occurred many times on a given crater wall.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)465-486
Number of pages22
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 15 2005


  • Geological processes
  • Mars
  • Planets
  • Surface
  • Surfaces

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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