Martian Valleys: Morphology, Distribution, Age, and Origin

Science  21 Nov 1980:
Vol. 210, Issue 4472, pp. 895-897
DOI: 10.1126/science.210.4472.895


Branching valley networks throughout the heavily cratered terrain of Mars exhibit no compelling evidence for formation by rainfall-fed erosion. The networks are diffuse and inefficient, with irregular tributary junction angles and large, undissected intervalley areas. Rather, the deeply entrenched canyons, with blunt amphitheater terminations, cliff-bench wall topography, lack of evidence of interior erosion by flow, and clear structural control, suggest headward extension by basal sapping. The size-frequency distributions of impact craters in these valleys and in the heavily cratered terrain that surrounds them are statistically indistinguishable, suggesting that valley formation has not occurred on Mars for billions of years.