Abstract

Consistently mappable units critical to distinguishing the style and interplay of geologic processes through time are sparse in the Martian lowlands. This study identifies a previously unmapped Middle Amazonian (ca. 1 Ga) unit (Middle Amazonian lowland unit, mAl) that postdates the Late Hesperian and Early Amazonian lowland plains by >2 b.y. The unit is regionally defined by subtle marginal scarps and slopes, has a mean thickness of 32 m, and extends >3.1 × 106 km2 between lat 35°N and 80°N. Pedestal-type craterforms and nested, arcuate ridges (thumbprint terrain) tend to occur adjacent to unit mAl outcrops, suggesting that current outcrops are vestiges of a more extensive deposit that previously covered ∼16 × 106 km2. Exposed layers, surface pits, and the draping of subjacent landforms allude to a sedimentary origin, perhaps as a loess-like deposit emplaced rhythmically through atmospheric fallout. We propose that unit mAl accumulated coevally with, and at the expense of, the erosion of the north polar basal units, identifying a major episode of Middle Amazonian climate-driven sedimentation in the lowlands. This work links ancient sedimentary processes to climate change that occurred well before those implied by current orbital and spin axis models.

You do not currently have access to this article.