Morphometric analysis and quantitative comparison of channel and valley systems on Titan, Venus, and Earth
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On Saturn’s moon Titan, drainage networks hundreds of kilometers long are distributed across the surface. These are likely created by liquid hydrocarbons, and are concentrated in the north polar region, with moderate concentrations in the south polar and tropical regions, and scattered sparsely elsewhere. The precise composition and rheology of the hydrocarbons forming these drainage systems is not well constrained, nor are the surface properties and structural controls affecting these drainage systems. To improve our understanding of the rheology of these hydrocarbons, as well as our understanding of Titan’s surface characteristics, I have quantitatively compared the planform morphologies of Titan’s drainages with those of drainage features formed by groundwater sapping, low-viscosity lava flows, and fluvial flows on Venus, the Moon, and Earth. Results from statistical analyses show no clear correlation between the distributions of planform measurements of drainage network branching angles and sinuosity for different drainage types and the likely rheologies of their drainage network forming fluids. Weak correlations are seen in measured branching angle distributions for drainage network categories that likely have a structural component involved in their formation. Correlations are also seen in sinuosity value distributions for drainage network categories that likely formed in a consolidated substrate. Statistical analysis results indicate that a structural component may control the planform morphology of the hydrocarbon drainage networks on Titan, consistent with previous qualitative observations, and that the substrate in which these drainages form has characteristics that are between those of a purely consolidated or purely unconsolidated substrate.