The role of weathering in the formation of bedrock valleys on Earth and Mars: A numerical modeling investigation

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16 Scopus citations

Abstract

Numerical models of bedrock valley development generally do not include weathering explicitly. Nevertheless, weathering is an essential process that acts in concert with the transport of loose debris by seepage and runoff to form many bedrock valleys. Here we propose a numerical model for bedrock valley development that explicitly distinguishes weathering and the transport of loose debris and is capable of forming bedrock valleys similar to those observed in nature. In the model, weathering rates are assumed to increase with increasing water availability, a relationship that data suggest likely applies in many water-limited environments. We compare and contrast the model results for cases in which weathering is the result of runoff-induced infiltration versus cases in which it is the result of seepage- or subsurface-driven flow. The surface flow-driven version of our model represents an alternative to the stream-power model that explicitly shows how rates of both weathering and the transport of loose debris are related to topography or water flow. The subsurface flow-driven version of our model can be solved analytically using the linearized Boussinesq approximation. In such cases the model predicts theater-headed valleys that are parabolic in planform, a prediction broadly consistent with the observed shapes of theater-headed bedrock valleys on Mars that have been attributed to a combination of seepage weathering and episodic removal of weathered debris by runoff, seepage, and/or spring discharge.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberE11007
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research E: Planets
Volume116
Issue number11
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 25 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Forestry
  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Palaeontology

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