Hesperian chaotic terrains have been recognized as the source of outflow channels formed by catastrophic outflows. Four main scenarios have been proposed for the formation of chaotic terrains that involve different amounts of water and single or multiple outflow events. Here, we test these scenarios with morphological and structural analyses of imagery and elevation data for Aram Chaos in conjunction with numerical modeling of the morphological evolution of the catastrophic carving of the outflow valley. The morphological and geological analyses of Aram Chaos suggest large-scale collapse and subsidence (1500m) of the entire area, which is consistent with a massive expulsion of liquid water from the subsurface in one single event. The combined observations suggest a complex process starting with the outflow of water from two small channels, followed by continuous groundwater sapping and headward erosion and ending with a catastrophic lake rim collapse and carving of the Aram Valley, which is synchronous with the 2.5Ga stage of the Ares Vallis formation. The water volume and formative time scale required to carve the Aram channels indicate that a single, rapid (maximum tens of days) and catastrophic (flood volume of 9.3×104km3) event carved the outflow channel. We conclude that a sub-ice lake collapse model can best explain the features of the Aram Chaos Valley system as well as the time scale required for its formation. © 2014 Elsevier Inc.
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