Geologic mapping of the northern plains of Mars, based on Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter topography and Viking and Mars Orbiter Camera images, reveals new insights into geologic processes and events in this region during the Hesperian and Amazonian Periods. We propose four successive stages of lowland resurfacing likely related to the activity of near-surface volatiles commencing at the highland-lowland boundary (HLB) and progressing to lower topographic levels as follows (highest elevations indicated): Stage 1, upper boundary plains, Early Hesperian, <-2.0 to -2.9 km; Stage 2, lower boundary plains and outflow channel dissection, Late Hesperian, <-2.7 to -4.0 km; Stage 3, Vastitas Borealis Formation (VBF) surface, Late Hesperian to Early Amazonian, <-3.1 to -4.1 km; and Stage 4, local chaos zones, Early Amazonian, <-3.8 to -5.0 km. At Acidalia Mensa, Stage 2 and 3 levels may be lower (<-4.4 and -4.8 km, respectively). Contractional ridges form the dominant structure in the plains and developed from near the end of the Early Hesperian to the Early Amazonian. Geomorphic evidence for a northern-plains-filling ocean during Stage 2 is absent because one did not form or its evidence was destroyed by Stage 3 resurfacing. Remnants of possible Amazonian dust mantles occur on top of the VBF. The north polar layered deposits appear to be made up of an up to kilometer-thick lower sequence of sandy layers Early to Middle Amazonian in age overlain by Late Amazonian ice-rich dust layers; both units appear to have outliers, suggesting that they once were more extensive.
Additional publication details
Resurfacing history of the northern plains of Mars based on geologic mapping of Mars Global Surveyor data