Letter | Published:

Groundwater formation of martian valleys

Subjects

Abstract

The martian surface shows large outflow channels, widely accepted as having been formed by gigantic floods that could have occurred under climatic conditions like those seen today1,2,3,4,5. Also present are branching valley networks that commonly have tributaries1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8. These valleys are much smaller than the outflow channels and their origins and ages have been controversial. For example, they might have formed through slow erosion by water running across the surface, either early or late in Mars' history9,10,11,12,13, possibly protected from harsh conditions by ice cover14,15,16. Alternatively, they might have formed through groundwater or ground-ice processes that undermine the surface and cause collapse, again either early or late in Mars' history3, 4. Long-duration surface runoff would imply climatic conditions quite different from the present environment. Here we present high-resolution images of martian valleys that support the view that ground water played an important role in their formation, although we are unable as yet to establish when this occurred.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

References

  1. 1

    Baker, V. R. The Channels and Valleys of Mars (Univ. Texas Press, Austin, (1982)).

  2. 2

    Carr, M. H. Water on Mars (Oxford Univ. Press, (1992)).

  3. 3

    Sharp, R. P. & Malin, M. C. Channels on Mars. Geol. Soc. Am. Bull. 86, 593–609 (1975).

  4. 4

    Mars Channel Working Group. Channels and valleys on Mars. Geol. Soc. Am. Bull. 94, 1035–1054 (1983).

  5. 5

    Baker, V. R. & Milton, D. J. Erosion by catastrophic floods on Mars and Earth. Icarus 23, 27–41 (1974).

  6. 6

    Baker, V. R. et al. Spring sapping and valley network development. Geol. Soc. Am. Spec. Pap. 252, 235–265 (1990).

  7. 7

    Carr, M. H. Formation of martian flood features by release of water from confined aquifers. J. Geophys. Res. 84, 2995–3007 (1979).

  8. 8

    Pieri, D. C. Martian valleys: Morphology, distribution and age. Science 210, 895–897 (1980).

  9. 9

    Baker, V. R. et al. Ancient oceans, ice sheets and the hydrologic cycle on Mars. Nature 332, 589–594 (1991).

  10. 10

    Masursky, H., Boyce, J. M., Dial, A. L., Schaber, G. G. & Strobel, M. E. Classification and time of formation of martian channels based on Viking data. J. Geophys. Res. 82, 4016–4038 (1977).

  11. 11

    Pollack, J. B. Climate change on the terrestrial planets. Icarus 37, 357–377 (1979).

  12. 12

    Craddock, R. A. & Maxwell, T. A. Geomorphic evolution of the martian highlands through ancient fluvial processes. J. Geophys. Res. 98, 3453–3468 (1993).

  13. 13

    Gulick, V. C. & Baker, V. R. Fluvial valleys and martian palaeoclimates. Nature 341, 514–516 (1989).

  14. 14

    Wallace, D. & Sagan, C. Evaporation of ice in planetary atmospheres: Ice-covered rivers on Mars. Icarus 39, 385–400 (1979).

  15. 15

    Carr, M. H. The stability of streams and lakes on Mars. Icarus 56, 476–495 (1983).

  16. 16

    Squyres, S. W. & Kasting, J. F. Early Mars: How warm and how wet? Science 265, 744–748 (1994).

  17. 17

    Malin, M. C., Danielson, G. E., Ravine, M. A. & Soulanille, T. A. Design and development of the Mars Observer Camera. Int. J. Imaging Syst. Technol. 3, 76–91 (1991).

  18. 18

    Malin, M. C. et al. Early views of the martian surface from the Mars Orbiter Camera of Mars Global Surveyor. Science 179, 1681–1685 (1998).

  19. 19

    Gulick, V. C., Tyler, D., McKay, C. P. & Haberle, R. M. Episodic ocean-induced CO2greenhouse on Mars: Implications for fluvial valley formation. Icarus 130, 68–86 (1997).

  20. 20

    Gulick, V. C. Magmatic intrusions and a hydrothermal origin for fluvial valleys on Mars. J. Geophys. Res. 103, 19365–19387 (1998).

  21. 21

    Baker, V. R. & Partridge, J. B. Small Martian valleys: pristine and degraded morphology. J. Geophys. Res. 91, 3561–3572 (1986).

  22. 22

    Goldspiel, J. M., Squyres, S. W. & Jankowski, D. G. Topography of small martian valleys. Icarus 105, 479–500 (1993).

  23. 23

    Carr, M. H. The martian drainage system and the origin of valley networks and fretted channels. J. Geophys. Res. 100, 7479–7507 (1995).

  24. 24

    Brackenridge, G. R., Newsom, H. E. & Baker, V. R. Ancient hot springs on Mars: Origin and paleosignificance of small martian valleys. Geology 13, 859–862 (1985).

  25. 25

    Newsom, H. E. Hydrothermal alteration of impact melt sheets with implications for Mars. Icarus 44, 207–216 (1980).

  26. 26

    Soderblom, L. A., Condit, C. D., West, R. A., Herman, B. M. & Kreidler, T. J. Martian planetwide crater distributions: Implications for geologic history and surface processes. Icarus 22, 239–263 (1974).

Download references

Acknowledgements

We thank J. Warren, R. Adair and M. Caplinger for efforts in support of aerobraking operations, and the Mars Surveyor Operations Project and its personnel for enabling aerobraking science observations. M.C.M. was supported by JPL.

Author information

Correspondence to Michael C. Malin.

Rights and permissions

To obtain permission to re-use content from this article visit RightsLink.

About this article

Publication history

  • Received

  • Accepted

  • Issue Date

DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/17551

Further reading

Figure 1: Portion of MOC image no.8704, showing Nanedi Vallis (5.5° N, 48.4° W), a “run-off channel”3, 4 north of Valles Marineris and south of Chryse Planitia.
Figure 2: Portion of Corasis Fossae valleys (MOC image no. 8205).
Figure 3: Portion of channels on the wall of Bakhuysen crater (MOC image no. 10605).
Figure 4: Portion of the dissected terrain southeast of Parana Valles (MOC image no. 7705).

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.