09 Nov 2022
09 Nov 2022
Status: this preprint is open for discussion.

Exploring the transition between water and wind-dominated landscapes in Deep Springs, California as an analog for transitioning landscapes on Mars

Taylor Dorn and Mackenzie Day Taylor Dorn and Mackenzie Day
  • Department of Earth, Planetary and Space Sciences, University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, 90095, USA

Abstract. Many planetary surfaces have been shaped by aeolian and fluvial processes, and understanding the resulting landscape is of critical importance to understanding changes in climate. Surface features on Earth and Mars are commonly observed using a variety of remote sensing methods. The observed geomorphology provides evidence of present- and paleo-processes, but interpretations are limited by the resolution of the data and similarity to well-understood systems on Earth. In this work, we study a complex fluvio-lacustrine and aeolian landscape at Deep Springs playa, California, using field measurements and remote sensing as an analog for a wet-to-dry transitioning landscape on Mars. The playa system in arid Deep Springs reflects fluvio-lacustrine processes in its interior, but transitions to aeolian-dominated processes along the playa margin. Weather station data and field observations collected over 34 months illustrate the interplay between aeolian and lacustrine processes and provide context for interpreting the observed geomorphology in aerial images. Our results showed a consistent distal-to-proximal geomorphic transition in the landscape defined by the changing expression of polygonal fractures, wave ripples, and evaporite deposits. Crescent shaped sedimentary deposits, originally suspected to be related to barchan dunes, proved unrelated to aeolian processes. We discuss the processes, sedimentary features, and climate drivers at Deep Springs to provide a potential framework for identifying and interpreting similar interactions between fluvio‐lacustrine and aeolian geomorphology elsewhere on Earth, on Mars, and beyond.

Taylor Dorn and Mackenzie Day

Status: open (until 25 Dec 2022)

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Taylor Dorn and Mackenzie Day

Taylor Dorn and Mackenzie Day


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Short summary
Planetary surfaces are shaped by both wind and water were their resulting surface features are commonly observed by aerial images. Deep Springs playa, CA provides an comparable wet-to-dry transitioning landscape as experienced in Mars' past. Our results, made through collected weather data and drone footage, showed that some features, when observed solely by aerial imagery might be interpreted as being formed by wind when in fact other processes were more influential in their formation.