Evaporation effects on the formation of martian gullies

by Bryson, K. L.; Dixon, J. C.; Sears, D. W. G.

In order to investigate the formation of martian gullies and the stability of fluids on Mars, we examined about 120 gully images. Twelve HiRISE images contained a sufficient number of Transverse Aeolian Ridges (TARs) associated with the gullies to make the following measurements: overall gully length, length of the alcove, channel and apron, and we also measured the frequency of nearby TARs. Six of the 12 images examined showed a statistically significant negative correlation between overall gully length (alcove, channel and apron length) and TAR frequency. Previous experimental work from our group has shown that at temperatures below similar to 200 K, evaporation rate increases by about an order of magnitude as wind speed increases from 0 to similar to 15 m/s. Thus the negative correlations we observe between gully length and dune frequency can be explained by formation at temperatures below similar to 200 K where wind speed/evaporation is a factor governing gully length. In these cases evaporation of the fluid carving the gully was a constraint on their dimensions. Cases where there is no correlation between gully length and TAR frequency, can be explained by formation at temperatures >200 K. The temperatures are consistent with Global Circulation Model and Thermal Emission Spectrometer (TES) data for these latitudes. The temperatures suggested by these trends are consistent with the fluid responsible for gully formation being a strong brine, such as Fe-2(SO4)(3) which has a eutectic temperature of similar to 200 K. We also find that formation timescales for gullies are 10(5)-10(6) years.

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