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Investigating lobate scarps in the inner solar system

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Lobate scarps on the Moon are relatively small-scale tectonic landforms. These low-angle thrust faults are observed predominantly in highland material and are the most common tectonic landform on the farside. Prior to Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) observations, lobate scarps were primarily detected in equatorial regions because of limited Apollo-era image coverage with optimum lighting geometry for identifying low-relief features. Thus, our previous understanding of lobate scarp distribution and morphometry was based on measurements of a limited number of low-latitude scarps.  LROC images combined with Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA) ranging enable detection and detailed morphometric analysis of lobate scarps at all latitudes. I will talk about the population of previously undetected lunar scarps and will present results from morphometric analyses using LROC stereo-derived digital terrain models (DTMs) and LOLA altimetry. Lobate scarps have now been identified individually or in complexes in more than 250 different locations, and are globally distributed. Based on their crisp morphology, lack of superposed large-diameter craters, and observations of transected small-diameter craters, they are believed to be among the youngest lunar landforms. The relatively small scale (typically tens of meters of relief and tens of kilometers or less in length) and small amount of horizontal shortening (~10 to 410 m) estimated for the scarps is generally an order of magnitude lower than estimates for planetary lobate scarps, and is consistent with a small amount of global late-stage radial contraction. I will also discuss the estimated displacement-length (D-L) relation of the lunar thrust faults, and how this compares to estimates for thrust faults on Earth, Mars, and Mercury. The results of this study will be used to refine estimates of the areal contractional strain and change in lunar radius once the complete global population of scarps is known. 

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