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Applicant -- Modern and ancient aeolian systems found across Mars

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Aeolian sediment transport and deposition have been ongoing throughout the history of Mars. High-resolution repeat imaging of the surface by the HiRISE camera indicate contemporary surface winds frequently transport and organize fine-grained sediments across the surface of Mars, as evidenced by the mobility of aeolian bedforms (dunes and ripples). By characterizing the dynamics and context of these bedforms one can constrain the various factors or boundary conditions that contribute to modern aeolian systems. Similarly, aeolian-derived geologic units found in the sedimentary record may preserve clues aboutpast environmental conditions.

In the first part of the seminar, I will provide an overview of modern aeolian systems and how bedform transport rates are depressed or enhanced by local and regional boundary conditions (e.g., topography, sand supply/availability, seasonal factors). Locations with the highest sand fluxes include Syrtis Major, which hosts the Mars 2020 rover landing site at Jezero crater, and the north polar erg, but under vastly different boundary conditions. In the second portion of the talk we will explore similar aeolian systems that are found in the geologic record in locations like Valles Marineris. Across the floor of Melas Chasma are concentrated groups of landforms that meet the morphologic criteria for crescentic dunes yet appear degraded and eroded. The presence and state of these paleodunes suggest a period of stabilization followed by cementation. Morphology and geologic context of these landforms provide clues on their formation wind regime(s) and climate systems, which will be discussed.

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