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Keywords:

  • Mars;
  • aeolian;
  • erosion

[1] Evidence for sediment transport and erosion by wind is widespread over the surface of Mars today and was likely a major geomorphic process for much of its geological past. Although Martian surface features resembling aeolian dunes and ripples have been recognized since the Mariner and Viking missions, such features have been interpreted previously as active, indurated, or exhumed sedimentary forms. Here we report evidence based on High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment images that show some megaripple forms are eroded into cohesive substrate rather than being composed of loose granular material or fossilized dunes. Exposure of stratigraphic continuity within layered, cohesive material extending crest to trough through features with mean wavelengths of 18 to 51 m demonstrates the primarily erosional formation of what we term periodic bedrock ridges (PBRs). Hence some surfaces on Mars previously considered to be covered by wind-deposited material are actually wind-carved exposures that offer windows into Martian history. PBRs lack the distinctive streamlining associated with wind-parallel yardangs and comparison of PBR orientation to yardangs, megayardangs, and active sedimentary dunes in the same vicinity confirm that these PBRs formed transverse to prevailing winds. Observed wavelengths of PBRs are comparable to those predicted by a simple model for erosional wavelengths of periodic transverse bed forms owing to the spacing of flow separations within the flow. Recognition of these transverse aeolian erosional forms brings up the question of how widespread Martian PBRs are and how many have been misinterpreted as active or indurated (fossilized) sedimentary dunes.