James Biemiller '15 takes on plucking and erosion on Mars

Plucking is a major mechanism of fluvial bedrock erosion that occurs during large flood events in terrestrial rivers. The hydrologic history of Mars is dominated by megafloods with estimated discharge of 1 - 2 million m3/s caused by crater overflows or groundwater melting. The prevalence of megafloods on Mars implies that plucking may have played a significant role in the incision of modern Mars channels. This study estimates the velocity necessary to pluck observed blocks in Athabasca Vallis, Mars and models the flow conditions necessary to do so, showing that plucking is a viable and probable dominant mechanism of fluvial erosion on Mars. This project also uses numerical and analog models to study the change in conditions conducive to plucking over the course of the evolution and incision of a distributary channel on Mars.