We present geologic evidence suggesting that after the development of Mars' cryolithosphere, the formation of aquifers in southwestern Chryse Planitia and their subsequent disruption led to extensive regional resurfacing during the Late Hesperian, and perhaps even during the Amazonian. In our model, these aquifers formed preferentially along thrust faults associated with wrinkle ridges, as well as along fault systems peripheral to impact craters. The characteristics of degraded wrinkle ridges and impact craters in southwestern Chryse Planitia indicate a profound role of subsurface volatiles and especially liquid water in the upper crust (the upper one hundred to a few thousands of meters). Like lunar wrinkle ridges, the martian ones are presumed to mark the surface extensions of thrust faults, but in our study area the wrinkle ridges are heavily modified. Wrinkle ridges and nearby plains have locally undergone collapse, and in other areas they are associated with domical intrusions we interpret as mud volcanoes and mud diapirs. In at least one instance, a sinuous valley emanates from a modified wrinkle ridge, further indicating hydrological influences on these thrust-fault-controlled features. A key must be the formation of volatile-rich crust. Primary crustal formation and differentiation incorporated juvenile volatiles into the global crust, but the crustal record here was then strongly modified by the giant Chryse impact. The decipherable rock record here begins with the Chryse impact and continues with the resulting basin's erosion and infilling, which includes outflow channel activity. We propose that in Simud Vallis surface flow dissection into the base of the cryolithosphere-produced zones where water infiltrated and migrated along SW-dipping strata deformed by the Chryse impact, thereby forming an extensive aquifer in southwestern Chryse Planitia. In this region, compressive stresses produced by the rise of Tharsis led to the formation of wrinkle ridges. Zones of high fracture density within the highly strained planes of the thrust faults underlying the wrinkle ridges formed regions of high permeability; thus, groundwater likely flowed and gathered along these tectonic structures to form zones of elevated permeability. Volatile depletion and migration within the upper crustal materials, predominantly along fault systems, led to structurally controlled episodic resurfacing in southwestern Chryse Planitia. The erosional modification of impact craters in this region is linked to these processes. This erosion is scale independent over a range of crater diameters from a few hundred meters to tens of kilometers. According to our model, pressurized water and sediment intruded and locally extruded and caused crustal subsidence and other degradational activity across this region. The modification of craters across this wide range of sizes, according to our model, implies that there was intensive mobilization of liquid water in the upper crust ranging from about one hundred to several thousand meters deep. ?? 2007 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Formation and disruption of aquifers in southwestern Chryse Planitia, Mars