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Science. 2017 May 19;356(6339):727-731. doi: 10.1126/science.aag0171.

Global drainage patterns and the origins of topographic relief on Earth, Mars, and Titan.

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Department of Earth and Atmospheric Science, City College of New York, City University of New York, New York, NY, USA.
Earth and Environmental Science, The Graduate Center, City University of New York, New York, NY, USA.
Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA.
Department of Earth and Planetary Science, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA, USA.
Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, USA.
Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, University of California, Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA, USA.
Department of Geophysics, School of Earth Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA.


Rivers have eroded the topography of Mars, Titan, and Earth, creating diverse landscapes. However, the dominant processes that generated topography on Titan (and to some extent on early Mars) are not well known. We analyzed drainage patterns on all three bodies and found that large drainages, which record interactions between deformation and erosional modification, conform much better to long-wavelength topography on Titan and Mars than on Earth. We use a numerical landscape evolution model to demonstrate that short-wavelength deformation causes drainage directions to diverge from long-wavelength topography, as observed on Earth. We attribute the observed differences to ancient long-wavelength topography on Mars, recent or ongoing generation of long-wavelength relief on Titan, and the creation of short-wavelength relief by plate tectonics on Earth.


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