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Earth Surface Dynamics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 3, issue 3
Earth Surf. Dynam., 3, 389–408, 2015
https://doi.org/10.5194/esurf-3-389-2015
© Author(s) 2015. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Earth Surf. Dynam., 3, 389–408, 2015
https://doi.org/10.5194/esurf-3-389-2015
© Author(s) 2015. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 04 Aug 2015

Research article | 04 Aug 2015

Groundwater seepage landscapes from distant and local sources in experiments and on Mars

W. A. Marra1, S. J. McLelland2, D. R. Parsons2, B. J. Murphy2, E. Hauber3, and M. G. Kleinhans1 W. A. Marra et al.
  • 1Faculty of Geosciences, Universiteit Utrecht, Heidelberglaan 2, 3584 CS, Utrecht, the Netherlands
  • 2Department of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences, University of Hull, Cottingham Road, Hull, HU6 7RX, UK
  • 3Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR), Institut für Planetenforschung, Rutherfordstraße 2, 12489 Berlin, Germany

Abstract. Valleys with theater-shaped heads can form due to the seepage of groundwater and as a result of knickpoint (waterfall) erosion generated by overland flow. This ambiguity in the mechanism of formation hampers the interpretation of such valleys on Mars, particularly since there is limited knowledge of material properties. Moreover, the hydrological implications of a groundwater or surface water origin are important for our understanding of the evolution of surface features on Mars, and a quantification of valley morphologies at the landscape scale may provide diagnostic insights on the formative hydrological conditions. However, flow patterns and the resulting landscapes produced by different sources of groundwater are poorly understood. We aim to improve the understanding of the formation of entire valley landscapes through seepage processes from different groundwater sources that will provide a framework of landscape metrics for the interpretation of such systems. We study groundwater seepage from a distant source of groundwater and from infiltration of local precipitation in a series of sandbox experiments and combine our results with previous experiments and observations of the Martian surface. Key results are that groundwater flow piracy acts on valleys fed by a distant groundwater source and results in a sparsely dissected landscape of many small and a few large valleys. In contrast, valleys fed by a local groundwater source, i.e., nearby infiltration, result in a densely dissected landscape. In addition, valleys fed by a distant groundwater source grow towards that source, while valleys with a local source grow in a broad range of directions and have a strong tendency to bifurcate, particularly on flatter surfaces. We consider these results with respect to two Martian cases: Louros Valles shows properties of seepage by a local source of groundwater and Nirgal Vallis shows evidence of a distant source, which we interpret as groundwater flow from Tharsis.

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Groundwater seepage creates valleys with typical theater-shaped valley heads, which are found on Earth and on Mars. For a better interpretation of these systems, we conducted scale experiments on the formation such valleys. We find that entire landscapes, instead of just the shape of the valleys, provide insights into the source of groundwater. Landscapes filled with valleys indicate a local groundwater source in contrast to sparsely dissected landscapes formed by a distal source of groundwater.
Groundwater seepage creates valleys with typical theater-shaped valley heads, which are found on...
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