Aeolian Controlled Landscape Evolution at a Martian Analogue Site in Northwestern Argentina
AdvisorHugenholtz, Chris H.
AuthorFavaro, Elena Angelica
Committee MemberSjogren, Darren Boyd
Martin, Yvonne E.
SubjectAeolian Geomorphology, Martian Analogue, Abrasion, Yardangs, Wind Regime, Argentina
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AbstractAeolian processes are the most pervasive agent of surficial change in the solar system. Encompassing sediment entrainment, transport, deposition, deflation, and abrasion, aeolian-driven landscape modification can affect planetary surfaces over a range of spatial and temporal scales. On Earth, aeolian processes shape the landscape across all seven continents. In our solar system, Mars is the only other planet known to have active aeolian processes. As the main geological agent of change over the past 4 billion years, wind has sculpted the Martian surface into patterns we recognize from studies of arid landscapes on Earth. Of interest to scientists is constraining the paleo- and contemporary wind regime of Mars to better understand its geologic, climatic, and erosional histories. Terrestrial aeolian research in Martian analogue environments has become an integral research practice to achieve these objectives. This thesis investigates process-form linkages between the aeolian environment and landscape on the Puna Plateau, Northwestern Argentina. A well-known Martian analogue, the Puna Plateau is ideal for conducting aeolian analogue research owing to its high altitude, low atmospheric pressure, aridity, wind regime, pyroclastic and basaltic geology, and the presence of a number of enigmatic bedrock landforms and granular bedforms known to exist on Mars, including, yardangs, periodic bedrock ridges, megaripples, and wind streaks. This research applies a diverse suite of in situ, laboratory, modelling, and remote sensing methodologies and analysis techniques to characterize sediment transport, the wind regime, abrasion dynamics, and distribution of landforms in the study area. Results from each study were used to refine and inform subsequent research questions. Among the findings of these works, we (i) identify a new abrasion feature, propose an evolutionary cycle, and highlight the diagnostic utility of this and other bedrock abraded features; (ii) identify variability of wind direction in the study area using wind re-analysis models, demonstrate the range of densities of mobilized grains using in situ sediment traps, and highlight the challenges of constraining sediment flux and abrasion rates in multimodal density environments; and (iii) use a high-resolution digital elevation model to statistically analyze yardang distribution, put forth hypotheses about initiation mechanisms, and relate the distribution of yardangs in the study area to those found elsewhere on Earth and Mars. The research in this thesis demonstrates the utility and necessity of using multiple methodologies to holistically define complex aeolian systems.
CitationFavaro, E. A. (2020). Aeolian Controlled Landscape Evolution at a Martian Analogue Site in Northwestern Argentina (Unpublished doctoral thesis). University of Calgary, Calgary, AB.
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