Control of impact crater fracture systems on subsurface hydrology, ground subsidence, and collapse, Mars



[1] Noachian layered materials are pervasively exposed throughout the highlands of Mars. The layered deposits, in places many kilometers thick, exhibit impact craters of diverse morphologic characteristics, ranging from highly degraded to pristine, most of which formed during the period of heavy bombardment. In addition, exhumed impact craters, ancient channels, and fluvial and alluvial fans are visible in the layered deposits through MOC imagery. These features are more abundant in Noachian terrains, which indicates relatively high erosion rates during ancient Mars that competed with heavy meteoritic bombardment. The Noachian layered materials are thus expected to contain numerous buried impact craters in various states of preservation. Here, we propose that impact craters (buried and exposed) and associated fracture systems dominate the basement structural fabric of the ancient highlands and that they have significantly influenced the hydrogeology. Diversity in the occurrence of high and low densities of impact craters and associated fracture systems controls the magnitude of the local effects of magmatic-driven hydrothermal activity. In and surrounding the Tharsis region, for example, the formation of chaotic terrains (the source regions of the circum-Chryse outflow channel system) and a large diversity of collapse structures, including impact crater moats and pit chains, appear to be the result of enhanced hydrothermal activity.