Inverted relief

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Inverted channels on Mars. These curved and crisscrossing ridges in the Aeolis region were once channels in a sediment fan. The channels were more resistant to wind erosion than the surrounding materials, so now they are left standing as ridges rather than valleys. Illumination is from the left. Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems

Inverted relief, inverted topography, or topographic inversion refers to landscape features that have reversed their elevation relative to other features. It most often occurs when low areas of a landscape become filled with lava or sediment that hardens into material that is more resistant to erosion than the material that surrounds it. Differential erosion then removes the less resistant surrounding material, leaving behind the younger resistant material which may then appear as a ridge where previously there was a valley. Terms such as "inverted valley" or "inverted channel" are used to describe such features.[1] Inverted relief has been observed on the surfaces of other planets as well as on Earth. For example, well-documented examples of inverted topography have been discovered on Mars.[2]

Formation[edit]

Several processes can cause the floor of a depression to become more resistant to erosion than its surrounding slopes and uplands:

  • First, coarse-grained sediment, such as gravel, accumulates in the depression, i.e. a stream valley or lake basin. Next, wind erosion removes fine-grained sediments in areas adjacent to the depression, but leaves behind the more resistant coarse-grained sediments as a hill or ridge.
  • A fluvial valley might fill with volcanic material such as lava or welded tuff pouring into it. This would resist erosion while the surrounding surface is eroded away to create a ridge.
  • Cementation of underlying sediments by minerals dissolved in water may occur in a depression. On Earth, this often happens in stream valleys as the result of the formation of duricrusts, i.e. silcrete or ferricrete, by pedogenesis. Minerals for cementation can come from groundwater. It is thought that a low point like a valley focuses groundflow, so more water and cements move into it, and this results in a greater degree of cementation.[3] Again, the cemented sediments would resist erosion while the surrounding countryside is eroded away to create a ridge or hill.[1][2]

An example[edit]

A classic example of inverted relief is Table Mountain, Tuolumne County, California. Multiple lava flows filled an ancient fluvial valley that cut westward through the central Sierra Nevada to the Central Valley about 10.5 million years ago. These Miocene lava flows filled this ancient river valley with a thick sequence of potassium-rich trachyandesite lavas that are significantly more resistant to erosion than the Mesozoic siltstone and other rock in which the valley was cut. Thus subsequent differential erosion left these volcanic rocks as a sinuous ridge, which now stands well above landscape underlain by more deeply eroded Mesozoic rocks.[4]

On Mars[edit]

Inverted relief in the form of sinuous and meandering ridges, which are indicative of ancient, inverted fluvial channels, is argued to be evidence of water channels on the Martian surface in the past.[2][5][6] An example is Miyamoto Crater, which was proposed in 2010 as a potential location to be searched for evidence of life on Mars.[7]

Other examples are shown in the photographs below.

Mars: Photographs[edit]

Inverted terrain in Aeolis quadrangle[edit]

Inverted terrain in Syrtis Major quadrangle[edit]

Inverted terrain in Margaritifer Sinus quadrangle[edit]

Inverted terrain in Amazonis quadrangle[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Pain, C.F., and C.D. Ollier, 1995, Inversion of relief - a component of landscape evolution. Geomorphology. 12(2):151-165.
  2. ^ a b c Pain, C.F., J.D.A. Clarke, and M. Thomas, 2007, Inversion of relief on Mars. Icarus. 190(2):478–491.
  3. ^ Andrews‐Hanna, J. C., R. J. Phillips, and M. T. Zuber (2007), Meridiani Planum and the global hydrology of Mars, Nature, 446, 163–166, doi:10.1038/nature05594.
  4. ^ Gornya, C., C. Busbya, C.J. Pluhar, J. Hagana and K. Putirkab, 2009, An in-depth look at distal Sierra Nevada palaeochannel fill: drill cores through the Table Mountain Latite near Knights Ferry. International Geology Review. 51(9–11):824–842.
  5. ^ HiRISE, 2010a, Inverted Channels North of Juventae Chasma (PSP_006770_1760). Operations Center, Department of Planetary Sciences, Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, Tucson, Arizona.
  6. ^ Williams, R.M.E., T.C. Chidsey, Jr., and D.E. Eby, D.E., 2007, Exhumed paleochannels in central Utah - analogs for raised curvilinear features on Mars, in G.C. Willis M.D. Hylland, D.L. Clark, and T.C. Chidsey, Jr., eds., pp. 220-235, Central Utah - diverse geology of a dynamic landscape. Publication 36, Utah Geological Association, Salt Lake City, Utah.
  7. ^ Newsom, H.E., N.L. Lanza, A.M. Ollila, S.M. Wiseman, T.L. Roush, G.A. Marzo, L.L. Tornabene, C.H. Okubo, M.M. Osterloo, V.E. Hamilton, and L.S. Crumpler, 2010, Inverted channel deposits on the floor of Miyamoto crater, Mars. Icarus. 205(1):64-72.
  8. ^ Grotzinger, J. and R. Milliken (eds.) 2012. Sedimentary Geology of Mars. SEPM

See also[edit]

External links[edit]