Temporal changes in the geographic distribution, elevation, and potential origin of the Martian outflow channels




Observational evidence of outflow channel activity on Mars suggests that water was abundant in the planet's early crust. However, with the decline in the planet's internal heat flow, a freezing front developed within the regolith that propagated downward with time and acted as a thermodynamic sink for crustal H2O. One result of this thermal evolution is that, if the initial inventory of water on Mars was small, the cryosphere may have grown to the point where all the available water was taken up as ground ice. Alternatively, if the inventory of H2O exceeds the current pore volume of the cryosphere, then Mars has always possessed extensive bodies of subpermafrost groundwater. We have investigated the relative age, geographic distribution, elevation, and geologic setting of the outflow channels in an effort to accomplish the following: (1) identify possible modes of origin and evolutionary trends in their formation; (2) gain evidence regarding the duration and spatial distribution of groundwater in the crust; and (3) better constraint estimates of the planetary inventory of H2O.



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