A Quantitative Analysis of the Fretted Terrain Valleys, Arabia Terra, Mars

Kelsey Anne Mason, University of Texas at El Paso


Fretted terrain describes regions on Mars with low-lying, flat valleys separated by steep cliffs that often form polygonal-shaped mesas. The fretted terrain valleys have a morphology distinct from other valleys found on Mars, and their unknown origin may hold insights into critical questions about Mars’ tectonic, magmatic, and hydrologic history. Current hypothesis for the formation of the fretted terrain include fracturing as well as hydrological flow processes such as fluvial or glacial erosion. The region for this study is located in eastern Arabia Terra and is the type-location for fretted terrain. By qualitatively and quantitatively documenting the planform, or map-view, valley geometries and orientations throughout the fretted terrain, this study better constrains the origin of the valleys. Valleys were mapped using automated routines in ArcGIS including the D8 flow direction algorithm. Valleys were then grouped geographically into basins and also by Strahler order. The valleys were then segmented every 50 km and the azimuth of each segment was calculated. The resulting valley azimuths were analyzed using rose diagrams to quantitatively describe the planform geometries of the valleys. Qualitatively, the majority of basins were found to have rectangular valley geometries. The downslope direction was calculated for each basin, and it was compared to the corresponding valley azimuths. The basins with rectangular valley geometries had valleys with an azimuth mode nearly parallel to the downslope direction and another azimuth mode perpendicular to the downslope direction. The valley azimuth mode parallel to the downslope direction is attributed to hydrological flow processes while the mode perpendicular to the downslope direction is attributed to fracturing related to the formation or existence of the Mars global dichotomy boundary.

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Recommended Citation

Mason, Kelsey Anne, "A Quantitative Analysis of the Fretted Terrain Valleys, Arabia Terra, Mars" (2017). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI10640771.