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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractSaturn's moon, Titan is a geomorphologically active planetary object, and its surface is influenced by multiple processes like impact cratering, fluvial and aeolian erosion, lacustrine processes, tectonics, cryovolcanism and mantling. Disentangling the processes that compete to shape Titan's landscape is difficult in the absence of global topography data. In this thesis, I utilize techniques in topographic statistics, fractal theory, study of terrestrial analogs and landscape evolution modeling to characterize Titan's topography and surface roughness and investigate the relative roles of surface processes in sculpting its landscape. I mapped the shorelines of 290 North Polar Titanian lakes using the Cassini Synthetic Aperture Radar dataset. The fractal dimensions of the shorelines were calculated via the divider/ruler method and box-counting method, at length scales of (1-10) km and found to average 1.27 and 1.32, respectively. The inferred power-spectral exponent of Titan's topography (β) was found to be ≤ 2, which is lower than the values obtained from the global topography of the Earth or Venus. In order to interpret fractal dimensions of Titan's shorelines in terms of the surficial processes at work, I repeated a similar statistical analysis with 114 terrestrial analogous lakes formed by different processes, using C-band radar backscatter data from the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM). I found different lake generation mechanisms on Earth produce 'statistically different' shorelines; however, no specific set of processes could be identified for forming Titanian lake basins. Using the Cassini RADAR altimetry data, I investigated Titan's global surface roughness and calculated median absolute slopes, average relief and Hurst exponent (H) for the surface of Titan. I detected a clear trend with latitude in these roughness parameters. Equatorial regions had the smallest slopes, lowest values of H and smallest intra-footprint relief, compared to the mid-latitudes and polar regions of Titan. I used steady state models of relief generation (tectonic activity) and relief reduction (diffusive mass wasting and advective bedrock channel erosion) to generate synthetic landscapes and simulate Titan's topography. I provided constraints on two environmental variables for Titan that influence surface roughness: diffusivity and erodibility coefficient.
Degree ProgramGraduate College