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Sinuous Ridges in Chukhung Crater, Tempe Terra, Mars: Implications for Fluvial, Glacial, and Glaciofluvial Activity

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Butcher, Frances 
Balme, Matthew 
Conway, Susan 
Gallagher, Colman 


We present a geomorphic map of Chukhung crater (38.47°N, 72.42°W) in central Tempe Terra, Mars. Chukhung crater formed ~3.6–2.1 Ga, between the early Hesperian and early Amazonian periods of Mars’ geologic history. It hosts dendritic networks of crater wall valleys, broad crater floor valleys, mid-to-late-Amazonian-aged debris-covered glaciers, moraine-like deposits, and a radial assemblage of sinuous ridge landforms. We explore the origins of landforms in Chukhung crater, focusing in particular upon the sinuous ridges. In northern Chukhung crater, sinuous ridges extend downslope from fluvial valley systems on the northern crater wall. We interpret the northern sinuous ridges as inverted paleochannels: ridges formed by exhumation of resistant and/or indurated fluvial channel fill deposits. The origins of sinuous ridges on the southern floor of Chukhung crater are more ambiguous. They emerge from beneath moraine-like ridges which bound extant debris-covered glaciers extending from the southern wall of the crater. The southern sinuous ridges have numerous morphological and contextual similarities to eskers: ridges of glaciofluvial sediment deposited in meltwater conduits within or beneath wet-based glaciers. The close proximity of the northern and southern sinuous ridges, however, calls into question an interpretation which ascribes a different origin to each set. The similarity in the overarching process between esker and inverted channel formation (i.e., exposure by the removal of a bounding medium, be that ice or sediments/rock) results in convergence of form between eskers and inverted paleochannels. We discuss the esker-like characteristics of the southern sinuous ridges in detail, and argue that one of two ridge populations in southern Chukhung crater is best explained by the esker hypothesis while the other could be explained under either the esker or the inverted paleochannel hypothesis. Regardless of the specific formation mechanism for the southern sinuous ridges, we find that Chukhung crater has undergone significant modification by liquid water since its formation. The northern sinuous ridges and associated crater-wall valleys provide evidence for subaerial drainage of precipitation and/or snowmelt. This suggests that Chukhung crater, and possibly the surrounding region, experienced unusually warm and wet episodes between the early Hesperian and mid Amazonian. If some or all of the southern sinuous ridges are eskers, they could provide evidence for an additional influence of glacial meltwater in Chukhung crater during the mid-to-late Amazonian. If wet-based glaciation did occur in Chukhung crater, the location of the crater between major branches of the Tempe Fossae tectonic rift system would add to the growing body of evidence that elevated geothermal heat flux was an important driver of localized occurrences of recent wet-based glaciation on Mars.



5109 Space Sciences, 5101 Astronomical Sciences, 51 Physical Sciences

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FEGB was part of the PALGLAC research team, supported by the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (Grant agreement No. 787263). SJC is supported by the French space agency CNES.

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2023-08-09 12:58:13
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