Mars Global Surveyor observations of Martian fretted terrain


  • Michael H. Carr


The Martian fretted terrain between latitudes 30° and 50°N and between 315° and 360°W has been reexamined in light of new Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) and Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA) data from Mars Global Surveyor. Much of the terrain in the 30°–50° latitude belt in both hemispheres has a characteristic stippled or pitted texture at MOC (1.5 m) scale. The texture appears to result from partial removal of a formerly smooth, thin deposit as a result of sublimation and deflation. A complex history of deposition and exhumation is indicated by remnants of a former, thicker cover of layered deposits. In some hollows and on some slopes, particularly those facing the pole, are smooth textured deposits outlined by an outward facing escarpment. Throughout the study area are numerous escarpments with debris flows at their base. The escarpments typically have slopes in the 20°–30° range. At the base of the escarpment is commonly a deposit with striae oriented at right angles to the escarpment. Outside this deposit is the main debris apron with a surface that typically slopes 2°–3° and complex surface textures suggestive of compression, sublimation, and deflation. The presence of undeformed impact craters indicates that the debris flows are no longer forming. Fretted valleys contain lineated fill and are poorly graded. They likely form from fluvial valleys that were initially like those elsewhere on the planet but were subsequently widened and filled by the same mass-wasting processes that formed the debris aprons. Slope reversals indicate that downvalley flow of the lineated fill is minor. The ubiquitous presence of breaks in slope formed by mass wasting and the complex surface textures that result from mass wasting, deflation, and sublimation decreases the recognizability of the shorelines formerly proposed for this area.