Amazonian-aged fluvial valley systems in a climatic microenvironment on Mars: Melting of ice deposits on the interior of Lyot Crater

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Abstract

[1] Valley networks, regional drainage patterns suggesting liquid water stability at the surface, are confined to early in the history of Mars (the Noachian/Hesperian boundary and before), prior to a major climate transition to the hyperarid cold conditions of the Amazonian. Several later fluvial valley systems have been documented in specific Hesperian and Early Amazonian environments, and are thought to have formed due to local conditions. Here we describe fluvial valley systems within Lyot crater that have the youngest well-constrained age reported to date (Middle or Late Amazonian) for systems of this size (tens of km). These valleys are linked to melting of near-surface ice-rich units, extend up to ∼50 km in length, follow topographic gradients, and deposit fans. The interior of Lyot crater is an optimal micro-environment, since its low elevation leads to high surface pressure, and temperature conditions at its location in the northern mid-latitudes are sufficient for melting during periods of high-obliquity. This micro-environment in Lyot apparently allowed melting of surface ice and the formation of the youngest fluvial valley systems of this scale yet observed on Mars.

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