Global map of eolian features on Mars


  • A. W. Ward,

  • K. B. Doyle,

  • P. J. Helm,

  • M. K. Weisman,

  • N. E. Witbeck


Ten basic categories of eolian features on Mars were identified from a survey of Mariner 9 and Viking orbiter images. The ten features mapped are (1) light streaks (including frost streaks), (2) dark streaks, (3) sand sheets or splotches, (4) barchari dunes, (5) transverse dunes, (6) crescentic dunes, (7) anomalous dunes, (8) yardangs, (9) wind grooves, and (10) deflation pits. The features were mapped in groups, not as individual landforms, and recorded according to their geographic positions and orientations on maps of 1:12.5 million or 1:25 million scale. In the north polar region, light and dark streaks indicate winds from the west and northwest. Frost streaks show northeast and northwest winds. Barchan dunes show southwest and west winds. Transverse dunes show east and west winds. Local erosional features show winds from the northwest or southeast and northeast or southwest. In the middle and low northern latitudes, streaks show northeast winds; yardangs and deflation pits show mostly easterly and northeasterly winds. In the low southern latitudes, light streaks and dunes record northwest and northeast winds; dark streaks record southeast winds. In high southern latitudes, most streaks and dunes record southeast and east winds. In the south polar region, light and frost streaks record southwest and northwest winds, whereas dark streaks and transverse dunes show southeast winds. The patterns recorded for ephemeral features conform to global conditions of strong southern spring and summer (northern fall and winter) wind circulation. Erosional features in bedrock indicate long-term and perhaps ancient wind trends, whereas depositional features may record relatively more recent winds. Wind directions indicated by yardangs, pits, and other erosional features seldom correspond to those shown by streaks. These erosional features indicating winds of different directions than those that formed the streaks may have been carved when the effective regional winds on Mars were different due to relative hemisphere insolation differences, which are related to obliquity variations. Alternatively, many yardangs and pits may be largely controlled by structure and carved along surface structural patterns or features that channeled both ancient and present-day winds. Deflation pits in the mantled terrain may contain the best record of ancient wind trends. These pits seem to have stratigraphically related orientations. Different stratigraphic units composing the mantle contain wind erosion pits that possibly record large-scale wind direction changes because of long-term changes in the obliquity of the Mars.