The Valles Marineris canyon system of Mars is closely related to large flood channels, some of which emerge full born from chaotic terrain in canyon floors. Coprates Chasma, one of the largest Valles Marineris canyons, is connected at its west end to Melas Chasma and on its east end to chaotic terrain-filled Capri and Eos Chasmata. The area from central Melas to Eos Chasmata contains a 1500 km long and about 1 km deep depression in its floor. Despite the large volumes of groundwater that likely discharged from chaotic terrain in this depression, no evidence of related fluvial activity has thus far been reported. We present an analysis of the regional topography which, together with photogeologic interpretation of available imagery, suggests that ponding due to late Hesperian discharge of water possibly produced a lake (mean depth 842 m) spanning parts of the Valles Marineris depression (VMD). Overflow of this lake at its eastern end resulted in delivery of water to downstream chaos regions and outflow channels. Our ponding hypothesis is motivated primarily by the identification of scarp and terrace features which, despite a lateral spread of about 1500 km, have similar elevations. Furthermore, these elevations correspond to the maximum ponding elevation of the region (-3560 m). Simulated ponding in the VMD yields an overflow point at its eastern extremity, in Eos Chasma. The neighborhood of this overflow point contains clear indicators of fluvial erosion in a consistent east-west orientation. ?? 2008 Elsevier Inc.
Additional publication details
Evidence for ponding and catastrophic floods in central Valles Marineris, Mars