QUOTE (Juramike @ Sep 4 2008, 08:41 PM)
I was assuming that the same cementing that causes dune fossilization is occurring on Mars...fluvial deposition might be gentle...
Thanks for stating your assumptions. In the first place, fluvial erosion (not deposition), especially that resulting from torrential downpours, is not particularly gentle. Second, dune "fossilization" (actually cementation or lithification) on Earth is caused by soaking the quartz sand for millions of years in liquid water during deep burial. Before lithification, the units were preserved by slow plate tectonic subsidence and/or sea level rise, allowing younger units to be deposited on top of older units, with minimal erosion in between (i.e., the eolian dunes were preserved from erosion because they were already safely buried under water when the river washed new sediment in on top, not because they were already lithified). Most preserved sediments were originally deposited just below (in the case of, e.g., reef limestone) or just above (in the case of, e.g., fluvial units and dune sands) sea level, on subsiding continental shelves (unknown on Mars). A record of such subsidence spanning nearly 250 million years (the Paleozoic Era) is preserved in, e.g., Arizona's Grand Canyon. A somewhat shorter interval is represented in the Mesozoic (dinosaur) Era rocks you mentioned. Later plate tectonic uplift and fluvial erosion has exposed these once deeply buried rocks at the Earth's surface.
Somewhat analogous multiple water soakings of what were assumed to be dune deposits have been proposed for one small region of Mars, Meridiani, by supposing that this region was a long-lived giant desert oasis of sorts, with groundwater (actually, many salt-saturated brine) welling upwards beneath and even flowing across a wind-swept plain, but such a site-specific, remarkably complex scenario seems unlikely for Mars in general. In any case, gradual plate tectonic subsidence/uplift and sea level rise are unknown on Mars (no known plate tectonics or permanent seas or subsiding continental shelves). The biggest basins, such as Hellas and the Northern Plains, are commonly assumed to represent the sites of giant impacts.
Contrast "gentle" geologic processes with the seismic shock of a major meteorite impact that might imediately toss all loose sand and dust into the atmosphere, all around the planet. To get a feeling for such blast processes see, e.g., the beginning of the latest (2008) Indiana Jones film, in which Indy gets an unexpected ride in a refrigerator.
In sum, a most logical proposal, but its assumptions might not be valid for most of Mars, especially for impact episodes. One possible exception: at the bottom of a big old deep crater (e.g., Gusev), you might find some fluviolacustrine (stream and lake) deposits, buried by eolian sands (or lavas), buried by more fluviolacrustine deposits, buried by more eolian deposits, and so on. You might also expect to find layers of ballistic (i.e., boulder) or surge-type impact deposits separating the eolian sand layers (or lavas) from the overlying fluviolacustrine layers, if a major impact generated each fluvial episode (in the sequence blast --> flood --> freeze dry). The major problem for Mars: exposure. The small craters investigated by the two rovers just aren't deep enough.
-- HDP Don