This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, VOL. 36, L22203, doi:10.1029/2009GL040909, 2009
Fluvial network analysis on Titan: Evidence for subsurface structures and west-to-east wind flow, southwestern Xanadu
Devon M. Burr,1,2 Robert E. Jacobsen,3 Danica L. Roth,4 Cynthia B. Phillips,2 Karl L. Mitchell,5 and Donna Viola6
Received 8 September 2009; revised 20 October 2009; accepted 23 October 2009; published 25 November 2009.
 Data of Titan’s surface from the Cassini-Huygens mission show inferred fluvial networks interpreted as products of liquid alkane flow. Using synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data, we delineated drainage networks, measured network parameters, and used these measurements in a simplified algorithm for classifying terrestrial drainage patterns. The results show a variety of patterns, indicating that a variety of factors control fluvial drainage on Titan. Drainage network patterns in southwestern Xanadu are classified as rectangular, suggesting control by a subsurface tectonic structural fabric. Link orientations also suggest that this subsurface tectonic fabric is oriented predominantly eastwest. Spatial variations in drainage networks are consistent with a west-to-east precipitation pattern, supporting inferences from aeolian dune morphology. These results illustrate how fluvial landform analysis can yield new information on both atmospheric and subsurface processes.
Citation: Burr, D. M., R. E. Jacobsen, D. L. Roth, C. B. Phillips, K. L. Mitchell, and D. Viola (2009), Fluvial network analysis on Titan: Evidence for subsurface structures and west-to-east wind flow, southwestern Xanadu, Geophys. Res. Lett., 36, L22203, doi:10.1029/2009GL040909.
1. Introduction: Fluvial Processes on Titan
 Titan, like Earth, has a solid surface covered with a substantial atmosphere. Each of these atmospheres contains volatiles—hydrocarbons on Titan, water on Earth—at a few mass percent that are close to their triple points under ambient conditions [e.g., Lemmon et al., 2002; Niemann et al., 2005]. Data from the Cassini-Huygens mission support the occurrence of methane rainfall and precipitation runoff [Lunine et al., 2008]. The Descent Imager and Spectral Radiometer (DISR) on the Huygens probe observed branched lineations interpreted as fluvial valley networks with inset streams formed by flowing methane [Tomasko et al., 2005; Perron et al., 2006]. At the landing site, the DISR imaged rounded cobbles composed of water ice and
1 Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee, USA. 2 Carl Sagan Center, SETI Institute, Mountain View, California, USA. 3 Department of Geology, Colorado College, Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA. 4 Earth and Planetary Sciences Department, University of California, Santa Cruz, California, USA. 5 Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California, USA. 6 Interdisciplinary Studies Department, University of Maryland Baltimore County, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.
an unidentified material [Tomasko et al., 2005]. As clast roundedness on Earth is a product of abrasion during fluvial transport, the rounded cobbles on Titan suggest transport by flowing liquid. Data from the Cassini orbiter instruments—the Cassini Titan Radar Mapper (RADAR), Imaging Science Subsystem (ISS), and Visible and Infrared Mass Spectrometer (VIMS)—also show networked lineations, interpreted as fluvial channels [e.g., Elachi et al., 2005; Porco et al., 2005; Barnes et al., 2007; Lorenz et al., 2008b].  The best resolutions for orbital data (!300 m pixelÀ1 for RADAR) are roughly an order of magnitude coarser than resolutions for DISR images ($15– 30 m pixelÀ1). Because of this difference, the valleys imaged by the DISR are not observable in RADAR data [Soderblom et al., 2007]. On Earth, fluvial channels conduct flow within larger fluvial (alluvial or bedrock) valleys, contributing to valley formation through sediment entrainment and/or erosion and efflux. Given that Earth-like processes of fluvial sediment erosion, entrainment, and transport likely occur on Titan [Collins, 2005; Burr et al., 2006], a similar size hierarchy of fluvial features presumably exists on Titan. Thus, an apparent contradiction exists between the interpretation of smaller features in the Huygens DISR images as fluvial valleys and the interpretation of larger features in orbiter data as fluvial channels. Investigation of these fluvial features requires a methodology valid for both possibilities.  Both channels and valleys form areal networks that reflect flow conditions. On Earth, regional terrain characteristics determine the network pattern, so identifying drainage patterns can reveal attributes of the terrain [e.g., Howard, 1967; Ritter et al., 1995]. In planetary studies, network analysis has proven useful in cases where data resolution is low and surface information, like slope, is limited [Pieri, 1980]. However, qualitative network identification can lead to erroneous network classifications [e.g., Pieri, 1979].  This paper describes a geomorphic study that quantitatively characterizes fluvial networks on Titan. We first present the data and methodology used for network identification. Then, we explain our approach for the collection of network data and their use within a simplified algorithm for network pattern classification. Lastly, we discuss the results and their implications for subsurface and atmospheric processes.
2. Data and Methodology for Drainage Network Delineation
 The Ku-band (l = 2.17 cm, f = 13.78 GHz) radar aboard the Cassini spacecraft can operate in synthetic-aperture radar (SAR) mode with incidence angles from 5° to 45° [Elachi et al., 2004, 2005]. Thus, surface slopes facing the
1 of 5
Copyright 2009 by the American Geophysical Union. 0094-8276/09/2009GL040909$05.00
(b) Example of a link with distinguishability in the form of clear boundaries between of the radar bright link and surrounding terrain.: FLUVIAL NETWORK ANALYSIS ON TITAN L22203 Figure 1. The arrow points to an individual sub-link that has a divergent flow orientation from its parent fluvial link. Potential links meeting two of these criteria were delineated (Figure 2). especially at the arrow point (also a radar bright/dark link). and surface/subsurface dielectric constants. Fluvial links delineated on T13.  Our delineation and measurement of Titan’s fluvial drainage networks was a multi-step process founded on identification of individual links. or reaches between two confluences.L22203 BURR ET AL. Figure 2. radar are illuminated in surface images. (a) Portion of the T13 swath showing drainage networks in southwestern Xanadu. in which brightness represents a combination of surface slope and roughness. Coverage is the same as in Figure 1a. subsurface scattering. 2 of 5 . SAR data were processed and reprojected with ISIS (Figure 1a). Three criteria were applied: distinguishability in tone from the surroundings (Figure 1b). [2008b]. slopes facing away from illumination. Black lines show edges of overlapping T44 swath. (c) Example of a fluvial link with geomorphic illumination. showing two drainage networks with several isolated and branched fluvial links. Rough terrain at the wavelength scale. Smooth terrain. (d) Example of link with fluvial morphology in the form of multiple meanders and link convergence. SAR data are displayed as grayscale images in image processing programs such as Integrated Software for Imagers and Spectrometers (ISIS). and highly conductive surface/subsurface materials appear bright. bright/dark pairing suggestive of a topographic depression (Figure 1c). and poorly conductive surface/subsurface materials appear dark. from approximately 215° to 235° east longitude and 6° to 14° south latitude. and potential links were identified using factors similar to those of Lorenz et al. Illumination for T13 is from the north. slopes facing towards illumination. and a morphology similar to fluvial features on Earth (Figure 1d).
Descriptions from Ritter et al. Sub-links were defined as individual. For example. and pinnate patterns (Table 1). and T44. the dendritic T3 networks show a range of sublink orientations clustered around a common azimuth. the dendritic pattern of T3 networks suggests that slopes are gentle. T39. 2005. Angles (T). Conformal Mercator projections were used to measure the junction angles between two links. trellis. Mitchell et al. 3 of 5 . whereas the parallel pattern derived for the T7 and T41 networks suggest moderate to steep slopes. T29. of Ie Mean exterior link lengths (Ie). T36. To classify these networks. Significant networks (7 or more links) were found on T3. The rose diagrams for the T13 and T44 networks show multi-modal flow orientations. 2008. T13. Polito et al. so that the Ichoku and Chorowicz  approach should be applicable. and their orientations were measured between 1° –180°. T41. which overlap.. T44 (180°E 0°N) Threshold attributes from Ichoku and Chorowicz  pattern classification algorithm. The variation in these results indicates that Titan networks are controlled by different factors. Significance. b Connectivity between two neighboring links was not assumed because of the possibility for dissolution processes [Hayes et al. T23.  The results of the application of our simplified algorithm are supported by rose diagrams of sub-link orientations (Figure 4). . uniformly resistant crystalline rocks.  Examination of this algorithm reveals thresholds for key attributes that discriminate among dendritic. Thus. elongate landforms.. consistent with sub-parallel links with similar orientations. Sinusoidal equidistant projections were used to measure lengths. T43. branched (connected to two other links). implying control by subsurface tectonic structures. Links were designated as isolated. Titan Drainage Networks: Measurement and Analysis Results  This method was applied to radar swaths in low to mid latitudes (Ta. T13. Angles (% Ta). Standard dev.  The results of the application of this simplified algorithm to the Titan network measurements are shown in Table 1. See Table 1 for definition of symbols. the algorithm could be simplified to these discriminatory attributes (Figure 3). 2006] suggest that erosive mechanisms and threshold shear stresses required for sediment entrainment and transport should be similar on Titan and on Earth. T41. straight stretches of the parent link (Figure 1b). all of which are at low latitudes (Table 1). T30. which likely may signify the regional slope. Networks in 4. Experiments [Collins. parallel. T41 (210°E 20°S) T13 (215°E 10°S). SAR Swath(s)c T3 (315°E 20°N) Parallel Rectangular a T7 (0°E 50°S). are classified as rectangular. Rectangularity (?) Geological Implicationsb Horizontal sediments or beveled. Parallelism (//) Mean exterior link lengths (Ie). T13/T44 Networks: Implications for Subsurface Structure and Weather Patterns 4. as well as sub-link orientations.: FLUVIAL NETWORK ANALYSIS ON TITAN L22203 Table 1. simplified from Ichoku and Chorowicz  showing the key threshold attributes (Table 1). 3. Thus. Mean junc.1. Subsurface Tectonic Structures  The rose diagrams and pattern classifications for the T13/T44 networks imply that liquid flow in southwestern Figure 3. 2008] and modeling [Burr et al. All Titan networks followed the right side of the algorithm.L22203 BURR ET AL. T13 and T44. ’Other classifications’ include trellis and pinnate patterns. rectangular. In contrast. we assume that fluvial network formation processes on Titan should also operate similarly. which could lead to discontinuous surface flow. but also occurs in areas of parallel. we used the numerical algorithm developed by Ichoku and Chorowicz  for classifying terrestrial network patterns on the basis of a large and diverse sample of classified drainage networks from published works. Network pattern classification algorithm. Percent acute junc. streams and divides lack regional continuity. or networked (connected to three or more links).. T7. which can be derived from planview images. T7. The implications of these rose diagrams and network classifications are discussed in more detail below.. ISIS was then used to create map projections appropriate for the characteristics to be measured. c Approximate center is given in parentheses. Generally indicates moderate to steep slopes. gentle regional slope at time of drainage inception. The parallel T7 networks have rose diagrams showing strong unimodal sub-link orientations. and T44). and Results of Titan Drainage Pattern Classification Derived Using the Algorithm Simplified From Ichoku and Chorowicz  Drainage Pattern Dendritic Threshold Attributesa Mean exterior link lengths (Ie). Attributes. modified from Howard . 2008]. Joints and/or faults at near-right angles. T3.
suggesting a generally east-west orientation of the tectonic fabric. 1989]. 4. Non-synchronous rotation may induce tensional stresses. Long. the rectangular classifications for these networks imply subsurface tectonic structures. Xanadu. support the inference of fluvial flow influence by tectonic structures oriented at angles to the regional slope at the time of runoff. However. Long. 2009] and geomorphology (J. with a maximum Shreve magnitude of 28.. Long. Secondly. Van Hoolst et al. In contrast. the sub-link orientations. Long. implying more north-south oriented flow. the 80° – 90° interval (east-west). 1967].L22203 BURR ET AL. Firstly.. À59. In addition.  Studies of Titan aeolian dune morphology infer that Titan’s low-latitude winds move west to east [e.5) shows more tightly constrained orientations.3. 2008b]. Xanadu formed a rectangular drainage. which exert alternating compressional and tensional stresses at the equator [cf.. In contrast. northeast-southwest.2. located along the equator.9. Stofan et al. Thus. the links farther to the east in T13 do not show the same east-west preference (Figure 2). For T13. showing northeasterly flow. 5. and references therein]..5. whereas Network B (Lat. Collins et al.6) shows more uniformly distributed link orientations. southwestern Xanadu is characterized by a trend of network development that is consistent with a trend in precipitation.5) is also distinct from the T13 networks. the eastern end is dominated by isolated and branched fluvial links.. 2009.g. our delineation of fluvial networks (Figure 2) is most consistent with the west-to-east wind direction inferred from the dune studies. Tokano. or reach of flow in one particular direction. À9.. 2009]. The T13 Network A (centered at Lat. previously inferred to have breached the rim of Menrva crater [Lorenz et al. which likely highlighted latitudinally-oriented links [cf. 90. submitted to Icarus. Cassini RADAR flew by Xanadu looking south. may thus have developed rectangular networks as a result of this tidally-induced tectonism.03). In the west. although the two swaths have a difference in illumination angle of $45°. the regional slope of western Xanadu at the time of network formation must have been southward as indicated by the overall network elongation and the convergence of the links in a southerly direction.: FLUVIAL NETWORK ANALYSIS ON TITAN L22203 Figure 4. which might be expressed by extensional joints or faults [Collins et al. the possible effect of illumination on our classification results seems minor. Network A has a relatively higher degree of integration. 15. whereas precipitation rates decrease as these clouds move eastward. combined with the rectangular drainage pattern.9. Regional geomorphology and history of Titan’s Xanadu province. 4. Because of Titan’s elliptical orbit (eccentricity of 0. The rose diagrams for Networks A and B suggest preferred flow along east-west. and the 110° – 120°. 2008]. The T3 network (Lat. Radebaugh et al. This interpretation is consistent with other recent findings based on SAR topography [Stiles et al. The T7 network (Lat..9) shows a rose diagram with four prominent wedges in the 50° – 60° interval (northeast-southwest). In contrast. Atmospheric Patterns  The delineation of drainage networks in T13/T44 (Figure 2) may also provide information about precipitation patterns. À8. drainage networks on Titan are nonetheless amenable to analysis 4 of 5 . analysis of the overlapping networks in T13 and T44 yields the same rectangular classification. 2009].g. it undergoes diurnal tides. and northwestsoutheast orientations (Figure 4). with a maximum Shreve magnitude of 3. 140° – 150° intervals (northwest-southeast). Thus. Thus.. Summary  Although their exact nature remains uncertain. Thus. Lorenz and Radebaugh. producing less integrated networks. we discount this as a determining factor for two reasons. 2009) that the fluvial networks in southwestern Xanadu were or are southwardflowing. to the extent that network integration is reflective of precipitation.. 132... Based on terrestrial analogs [Howard.  The generally east-west orientation of the links may be in part a product of the Cassini RADAR illumination angle. 139. incoming rainfall creates high drainage density and network integration in the west. global circulation models of Titan’s atmosphere yield predominately east-to-west flow at low latitudes [e. Titan has recently been suggested to undergo slight non-synchronous rotation [Lorenz et al.  These hypothesized subsurface tectonic structures may have formed from orbital processes. Cumulative length rose diagrams for network sub-links. 2009]. 2008a.
doi:10.. 308. Res. et al. Y. Water Resour. Res.. Howard. USA. Interdisciplinary Studies Department. L22202.02. We thank the Cassini RADAR Team for assistance with SAR image processing and 2 anonymous reviewers for constructive comments.. Miller (1995). D. Colorado College. Burr. (2008). an REU grant from the National Science Foundation to the SETI Institute. 181 . Global pattern of Titan’s dunes: Radar survey from the Cassini prime mission. doi:10. Smith. R.icarus. Elachi.. L. Nature. 51. (2008). (2005).2008. Res.1016/j. Hayes. and J. M. 256 – 264. 35. 970 – 974. D.1029/2005JE002602. doi:10.. Icarus.. J. 438.. G. Sklar. . 55(13). Baland (2009). 1649 – 1651. Lorenz (2002). doi:10. 71 – 110. Iowa.  Acknowledgments. Planet. et al. (2007). (2005). 101.1038/ nature04126. J.014. K. Drainage analysis in geologic interpretation: A summation. J. 438. Ritter. Tokano. 375 – 385. Relative rates of fluvial bedrock incision on Titan and Earth. Roth. Nature. TM-81979. S. 89(53). and the Patricia Buster Research Scholarship Fund at Colorado College. Schultz and T. Jacobsen. in Advances in Planetary Geology.032.11. Tomasko. University of Tennessee. E. À À À À À À À À À À À À À À À À À À À À À À D. Icarus. dissertation.. N.. and provides information about their formation. 112. This research was made possible by the Cassini Data Analysis Program. and J. Am. Ph. C. ¨ . Pieri. 3rd ed. The abundances of constituents of Titan’s atmosphere from the GCMS instrument on the Huygens probe. Lorenz. 194. W.11. Assoc..03.. et al. Geophys. Dune-forming winds on Titan and the influence of topography. E. The drainage patterns on the T13/T44 swaths indicate the influence by subsurface tectonic structures oriented predominantly east-west. Analysis of early SAR images confirms that Titan networks vary in character. L03202. doi:10. TN 37996. A. 160. G. The relative degree of network integration in southwestern Xanadu is consistent with winds blowing from the west at the time of network formation. Yager. Cassini radar views the surface of Titan. doi:10. P. et al. Perron. Carl Sagan Center.2009. (2005).022. R.. Earth and Planetary Sciences Department.3. Icarus. doi:10. 243 – 262.. Karateckin. 36.icarus.2. et al. (2008b). A. Viola. A ´ mkovics (2006). 2246 – 2259. doi:10. Elachi. 159 – 168.. Res. H.1126/science. et al.CO.. T. (2008).1007/s11214-004-1438-9.. Niemann. et al. (2006). Res.1016/ j. Science . acknowledges support of the Cassini RADAR Science Team. 1132 – 1144. Rain. (2004). C. Pieri. Geol. Department of Geology. Lunine. et al. J. University of Maryland Baltimore County.009..1038/nature04122. and G. 160 pp. and R. L. K. doi:10. SETI Institute. CO 80903. M. Lett. D. NASA Tech. 32. L09204. Morphology of Martian valleys. C.2008.. Cambridge. D.1151639.M. Memo. Cornell Univ.1029/93WR02279.2007. B. edited by R. in Planetary Tectonics. Abstract 2170. 5 of 5 . and R. Cambridge Univ.. Knoxville.1109919.1016/j. Geophys. (2005). 195. 30(2). N.. T. Imaging of Titan from the Cassini spacecraft. Science. 235 – 242. Lorenz. Planet. Colorado Springs.. 111. Ichoku. D. D. M. P. (2008a). D. Zygielbaum. Space Sci. L. Icarus. R. Lunar Planet.edu) R. Santa Cruz. B. Geology of a Venus rift zone: Beta Regio and Devana chasma. (1989). Collins.D. Polito. (1967). William C.icarus. (dburr1@utk. Y. et al.1016/ j. Stofan. Hydrocarbon lakes on Titan: Distribution and interaction with a porous regolith. doi:10. Lemmon. 161 – 174. Dubuque. USA.. doi:10. USA. Geophys. Collins. Baltimore.1029/ 2007JE002932. C. (2008). M.. Burr. Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences.1038/nature03436. W. (1979). R.1029/2005GL024551. (1980). AGU. The formation of high latitude karst lakes on Titan and implications for the existence of polar caps. I. 415 – 433. Sediment transport by liquid overland flow: Application to Titan. 115(1 – 4).04..1006/icar. Methane abundance on Titan. doi:10. XXXIX. Geophys. Soc. Lett. C. Koven. et al. Radebaugh (2009). et al. et al. Eos Trans. 319 .6979.. P. Space Sci. R.009. D. Determining Titan surface topography from Cassini SAR data. Space Sci. CA 95064.pss.. K. and haze during the Huygens probe’s descent to Titan’s surface. 2025 – 2036.2002. E11006. 765 – 778. Chorowicz (1994).1016/j. C. et al. R. G.. 779 – 784. California Institute of Technology. 202.. Fung.12. Sci. 200. Lett. Near-infrared spectral mapping of Titan’s mountains and channels. Suppl. C. 584 – 598. Nature. M.1029/2008GL036850. Pet. et al. Fluvial channels on Titan: Initial Cassini RADAR observations. (2007). C. Phillips. C. Kochel. 56 (8).-M. measured by the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph.. Abstract P21A-1316. doi:10.pss. Rev. and ´ da M.... B. L.. USA. winds. T. A numerical approach to the analysis and classification of channel network patterns. USA. References Barnes. et al.. Lamb.012. Collins (2008). O The effect of gravitational and pressure torques on Titan’s length-of-day variations. Geophys. Porco.. 434. R. Mitchell. Titan’s rotation reveals an internal ocean and changing zonal winds. (2009). C.: FLUVIAL NETWORK ANALYSIS ON TITAN L22203 using terrestrial techniques appropriate for both fluvial channels and alluvial valleys.. in press. doi:10. Valley formation and methane precipitation rates on Titan. Mountain View. (2009). U. D. C. This work illustrates how fluvial landform analysis may yield information on both atmospheric and subsurface processes.2005. doi:10. B. Tectonics of the outer planet satellites. Ithaca. Lorenz. USA.2007.L22203 BURR ET AL. Icarus ..1126/ science. Res. RADAR: The Cassini Titan Radar Mapper. Geol. Mitchell. Press. Bull. Bull. et al. doi:10.icarus.1029/2008GL033409. doi:10. Watters. Rambaux. Titan’s diverse landscapes as evidenced by Cassini RADAR’s third and fourth looks at Titan. E. Correlations between Cassini VIMS spectra and RADAR SAR images: Implications for Titan’s surface composition and the character of the Huygens probe landing site. J. 143 – 156. L. Am. University of California.. A. Brown. doi:10. K. Process Geomorphology. Van Hoolst. Stiles. Jet Propulsion Laboratory. (2005).1130/ 0016-7606(1989)101<0143:GOARZO>2. Geomorphology of Martian valleys. Pasadena. 560 pp. Icarus.L.. CA 94043. doi:10.1016/j. Soderblom. CA 91109-8099. and J. J. Fall Meet. Experimental investigation of fluvial incision on Titan by low-velocity sediment impacts. doi:10. E11001. MD 21250.