Orientation and distribution of recent gullies in the southern hemisphere of Mars: Observations from High Resolution Stereo Camera/Mars Express (HRSC/MEX) and Mars Orbiter Camera/Mars Global Surveyor (MOC/MGS) data



[1] Geologically recent small gullies on Mars display morphologies consistent with erosion by water or by debris flows. Suggested formation models are divided into two main categories: (1) groundwater or (2) melting of near-surface ice/snow sourced from the atmosphere. We have measured location and orientation and recorded the local contexts of gullies to constrain the likely models of gully formation. More than 22,000 Mars Orbiter Camera Narrow Angle (MOC NA) and >120 Mars Express High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) images in the southern hemisphere were searched for gullies. Discrete gullied slope sections with consistent orientation were recorded rather than individual gullies. Slope setting (impact crater, valley wall, etc.), location, and orientation were recorded for each slope section. More than 750 MOC images with gullies (>900 distinct gullied slope sections) and more than 40 HRSC images (>380 distinct gullied slope sections) were identified. From both MOC and HRSC, gullies were found to be most common between −30 and −50 degrees latitude and to have an overall pole facing preference. The preferred gully orientation for HRSC is southeast rather than south in MOC, owing to illumination effects that make gullies difficult to detect on south- to southwest-facing slopes in HRSC. In both MOC and HRSC surveys, higher-latitude gullies show less preference for pole facing than those at mid latitudes. Both data sets produced similar results, demonstrating that our data are reliable. We suggest that the observed latitudinal and orientation distributions of gullies show that insolation and atmospheric conditions play a key role in gully formation.