Publications by authors named "Matthew Chojnacki"

6 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

Boundary condition controls on the high-sand-flux regions of Mars.

Geology 2019 May 11;47(5):427-430. Epub 2019 Mar 11.

Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona 85721, USA.

Wind has been an enduring geologic agent throughout the history of Mars, but it is often unclear where and why sediment is mobile in the current epoch. We investigated whether eolian bed-form (dune and ripple) transport rates are depressed or enhanced in some areas by local or regional boundary conditions (e.g., topography, sand supply/availability). Bedform heights, migration rates, and sand fluxes all span two to three orders of magnitude across Mars, but we found that areas with the highest sand fluxes are concentrated in three regions: Syrtis Major, Hellespontus Montes, and the north polar erg. All regions are located near prominent transition zones of topography (e.g., basins, polar caps) and thermophysical properties (e.g., albedo variations); these are not known to be critical terrestrial boundary conditions. The two regions adjacent to major impact basins (Hellas and Isidis Planitia) showed radially outward upslope winds driving sand movement, although seasonally reversing wind regimes were also observed. The northern polar dunes yielded the highest known fluxes on the planet, driven by summer katabatic winds modulated by the seasonal CO cap retreat-processes not known to affect terrestrial dunes. In contrast, southern dune fields (<45°S) were less mobile, likely as a result of seasonal frost and ground ice suppressing sand availability. Results suggest that, unlike on Earth, large-scale topographic and thermophysical variabilities play a leading role in driving sand fluxes on Mars.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1130/g45793.1DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7241575PMC
May 2019

Aeolian dune sediment flux heterogeneity in Meridiani Planum, Mars.

Aeolian Res 2017 Jun 5;26:73-88. Epub 2016 Oct 5.

Carl Sagan Center at the SETI Institute, 189 Bernardo Ave, Mountain View, CA 94043, USA.

It is now known unambiguously that wind-driven bedform activity is occurring on the surface of Mars today, including early detections of active sand dunes in Meridiani Planum's Endeavour crater. Many of these reports are only based on a few sets of observations of relatively isolated bedforms and lack regional context. Here, we investigate aeolian activity across central Meridiani Planum and test the hypothesis that dune sites surrounding Endeavour crater are also active and part of region-wide sediment migration driven by northwesterly winds. All 13 dune fields investigated clearly showed evidence for activity and the majority exhibited dune migration (average rates of 0.6 m/Earth-year). Observations indicate substantial geographic and temporal heterogeneity of dune crest fluxes across the area and per site. Locations with multiple time steps indicate dune sand fluxes can vary by a factor of five, providing evidence for short periods of rapid migration followed by near-stagnation. In contrast, measurements at other sites are nearly identical, indicating that some dunes are in a steady-state as they migrate. The observed sediment transport direction was consistent with a regional northeasterly-to-northwesterly wind regime, revealing more variations than were appreciated from earlier, more localized studies. Craters containing shallow, degraded, flat-floored interiors tended to have dunes with high sediment fluxes/activity, whereas local kilometer-scale topographic obstructions (e.g., central peaks, yardangs) were found to be inversely correlated with dune mobility. Finally, the previous, more limited detections of dune activity in Endeavour crater have been shown to be representative of a broader, region-wide pattern of dune motion.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.aeolia.2016.07.004DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5863747PMC
June 2017

Wind-Driven Erosion and Exposure Potential at Mars 2020 Rover Candidate-Landing Sites.

J Geophys Res Planets 2018 Feb 8;123(2):468-488. Epub 2018 Feb 8.

Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, USA.

Aeolian processes have likely been the predominant geomorphic agent for most of Mars' history and have the potential to produce relatively young exposure ages for geologic units. Thus, identifying local evidence for aeolian erosion is highly relevant to the selection of landing sites for future missions, such as the Mars 2020 Rover mission that aims to explore astrobiologically relevant ancient environments. Here we investigate wind-driven activity at eight Mars 2020 candidate-landing sites to constrain erosion potential at these locations. To demonstrate our methods, we found that contemporary dune-derived abrasion rates were in agreement with rover-derived exhumation rates at Gale crater and could be employed elsewhere. The Holden crater candidate site was interpreted to have low contemporary erosion rates, based on the presence of a thick sand coverage of static ripples. Active ripples at the Eberswalde and southwest Melas sites may account for local erosion and the dearth of small craters. Moderate-flux regional dunes near Mawrth Vallis were deemed unrepresentative of the candidate site, which is interpreted to currently be experiencing low levels of erosion. The Nili Fossae site displayed the most unambiguous evidence for local sand transport and erosion, likely yielding relatively young exposure ages. The downselected Jezero crater and northeast Syrtis sites had high-flux neighboring dunes and exhibited substantial evidence for sediment pathways across their ellipses. Both sites had relatively high estimated abrasion rates, which would yield young exposure ages. The downselected Columbia Hills site lacked evidence for sand movement, and contemporary local erosion rates are estimated to be relatively low.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/2017JE005460DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5859260PMC
February 2018

Dune-Yardang Interactions in Becquerel Crater, Mars.

J Geophys Res Planets 2018 9;123(2):353-368. Epub 2018 Jan 9.

INAF, Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica, Osservatorio Astronomico di Teramo, Teramo, Italy.

Isolated landscapes largely shaped by aeolian processes can occur on Earth, while the majority of Mars' recent history has been dominated by wind-driven activity. Resultantly, Martian landscapes often exhibit large-scale aeolian features, including yardang landforms carved from sedimentary-layered deposits. High-resolution orbital monitoring has revealed that persistent bedform activity is occurring with dune and ripple migration implying ongoing abrasion of the surface. However, little is known about the interaction between dunes and the topography surrounding them. Here we explore dune-yardang interactions in Becquerel crater in an effort to better understand local landscape evolution. Dunes there occur on the north and south sides of a 700 m tall sedimentary deposit, which displays numerous superposed yardangs. Dune and yardang orientations are congruent, suggesting that they both were formed under a predominantly northerly wind regime. Migration rates and sediment fluxes decrease as dunes approach the deposit and begin to increase again downwind of the deposit where the effect of topographic sheltering decreases. Estimated sand abrasion rates (16-40 μm yr) would yield a formation time of 1.8-4.5 Myr for the 70 m deep yardangs. This evidence for local aeolian abrasion also helps explain the young exposure ages of deposit surfaces, as estimated by the crater size-frequency distribution. Comparisons to terrestrial dune activity and yardang development begin to place constraints on yardang formation times for both Earth and Mars. These results provide insight into the complexities of sediment transport on uneven terrain and are compelling examples of contemporary aeolian-driven landscape evolution on Mars.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/2017JE005465DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5857962PMC
January 2018

The Geologic Exploration of the Bagnold Dune Field at Gale Crater by the Curiosity Rover.

J Geophys Res Planets 2017 Nov 1;122(11):2216-2222. Epub 2017 Nov 1.

Carl Sagan Center, SETI Institute, Mountain View, CA, USA.

The Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity engaged in a monthlong campaign investigating the Bagnold dune field in Gale crater. What represents the first in situ investigation of a dune field on another planet has resulted in a number of discoveries. Collectively, the Curiosity rover team has compiled the most comprehensive survey of any extraterrestrial aeolian system visited to date with results that yield important insights into a number of processes, including sediment transport, bed form morphology and structure, chemical and physical composition of aeolian sand, and wind regime characteristics. These findings and more are provided in detail by the JGR-Planets Special Issue Curiosity's Bagnold Dunes Campaign, Phase I.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/2017JE005455DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5857957PMC
November 2017

Dune-slope activity due to frost and wind throughout the north polar erg, Mars.

Geol Soc Spec Publ 2017 27;467. Epub 2017 Nov 27.

Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, University of Arizona, 1629 E University Blvd, Tucson, AZ 85721, USA.

Repeat, high-resolution imaging of dunes within the Martian north polar erg have shown that these dune slopes are very active, with alcoves forming along the dune brink each Mars year. In some areas, a few hundred cubic metres of downslope sand movement have been observed, sometimes moving the dune brink 'backwards'. Based on morphological and activity-timing similarities of these north polar features to southern dune gullies, identifying the processes forming these features is likely to have relevance for understanding the general evolution/modification of dune gullies. To determine alcove-formation model constraints, we have surveyed seven dune fields, each over 1-4 Mars winters. Consistent with earlier reports, we found that alcove-formation activity occurs during the autumn-winter seasons, before or while the stable seasonal frost layer is deposited. We propose a new model in which alcove formation occurs during the autumn, and springtime sublimation activity then enhances the feature. Summertime winds blow sand into the new alcoves, erasing small alcoves over a few Mars years. Based on the observed rate of alcove erasure, we estimated the effective aeolian sand transport flux. From this, we proposed that alcove formation may account for 2-20% of the total sand movement within these dune fields.
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http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5932633PMC
http://dx.doi.org/10.1144/SP467.6DOI Listing
November 2017