Encyclopedia of Planetary Landforms

2015 Edition
| Editors: Henrik Hargitai, Ákos Kereszturi


  • Gino ErkelingEmail author
  • Esther Stouthamer
  • Henrik Hargitai
  • Kirstie Fryirs
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-3134-3_42


An open conduit through which some fluid has moved (Sharp and Malin 1975). On Earth, a channel is defined as “the hollow bed where a natural body of surface water flows or may flow. The deepest or central part of the bed of a stream, containing the main current and occupied more or less continuously by water” (NSSH 2008).

Related Terms

Valley, Channel-belt deposit, Macrochannel, Inner channel

Description and Terminology


On Earth, the term “channel” refers to the bed and bank of a stream, usually lying at the bottom of a gully, canyon, or valley (Sharp and Malin 1975), but it is also applied to  lava channels and submarine channels.

On Mars, it has come to mean any elongate narrow depression of linear, curvilinear, sinuous, or irregular configuration, created by external processes, typically erosion (Sharp and Malin 1975). However, the application of the term “channel” to any linear negative landforms of Mars is inappropriate in terms of strict terminology (Sharp and...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Arnott RWC (2007) Stratal architecture and origin of lateral accretion deposits (LADs) and conterminuous inner-bank levee deposits in a base-of-slope sinuous channel, lower Isaac Formation (Neoproterozoic), East-Central British Columbia, Canada. Mar Petrol Geol 24:515–528CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bennet MR, Glasser NF (2009) Glacial geology. Ice sheets and landforms, 2nd edn. Wiley, Chichester/New YorkGoogle Scholar
  3. Brennand TA (2000) Deglacial meltwater drainage and glaciodynamics: inferences from Laurentide eskers. Can Geomorphol 32:263–293CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bridge JS, Demicco R (2012) Rivers, alluvial plains and fans. In: Earth surface processes, landforms and sediment deposits. Cambridge University Press, New York, pp 365–461Google Scholar
  5. Burr DM, Perron JT, Lamb MP, Irwin III RP, Collins GC, Howard AD, Sklar LS, Moore JM, Ádámkovics M, Baker VR, Drummond SA, Black BA (2012) Fluvial features on Titan: insights from morphology and modeling. GSA Bull. doi:10.1130/B30612.1, 7Google Scholar
  6. Callow RHT, Kneller B, Dykstra M, McIlroy D (2014) Physical, biological, geochemic al and sedimentologic al controls on the ichnology of submarine canyon and slope channel systems. Marine and Petroleum Geology 54:144–166CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Clayton L, Attig JW, Mickelson DM (1999) Tunnel channels formed in Wisconsin during the last glaciation. In: Mickelson DM, Attig JW (eds) Glacial processes past and present, Special paper 337. Geological Society of America, Boulder, pp 69–83Google Scholar
  8. Deptuck ME, Steffens GS, Barton M, Pirmez C (2003) Architecture and evolution of upper fan channel-belts on the Niger delta slope and in the Arabian Sea. Mar Petrol Geol 20(6–8):649–676CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dominic DF, Ramanathan R, Ritzi R (2010) Aquifer heterogeneity in channel-belt deposits, part 1. Rationale for geometric simulation. GSA Denver annual meeting (31 Oct−3 Nov 2010) paper no. 9–5Google Scholar
  10. Erkeling G, Hiesinger H, Reiss D, Hielscher FJ, Ivanov MA (2011) The stratigraphy of the Amenthes region, Mars: time limits for the formation of fluvial, volcanic and tectonic landforms. Icarus 215:128–152. doi:10.1016/j.icarus.2011.06.041CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Fryirs KA, Brierley GJ (2013) Geomorphic analysis of river systems: an approach to reading the landscape. Wiley, ChichesterGoogle Scholar
  12. Garry WB, Bleacher JE, Warner NA (2008) Emplacement scenarios for Vallis Schröteri, Aristarchus Plateau, the Moon. Lunar Planet Sci Conf XXXIX, abstract #2261, HoustonGoogle Scholar
  13. Gouw MJP (2007) Alluvial architecture of fluvio-deltaic successions: a review with special reference to Holocene settings. Netherlands J Geosci 86(3):211–227Google Scholar
  14. Guest JE, Kilburn CRJ, Pinkerton H, Duncan AM (1987) The evolution of lava flow fields: observations of the 1981 and 1983 eruptions of Mount Etna, Sicily. Bull Volcanol 49:527–540CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hoke MRT, Hynek BM, Tucker GE (2011) Formation timescales of large Martian valley networks. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 312:1–12CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hooke RLB (1984) On the role of mechanical energy in maintaining subglacial water conduits at atmospheric pressure. J Glaciol 30:180–187Google Scholar
  17. Howard AD (1987) Modelling fluvial systems: rock-, gravel-, and sand-bed channels. In: Richards KS (ed) River Channels: Environment and Process. Blackwell, Oxford, pp 69–94Google Scholar
  18. Howard AD, Moore JM, Irwin III RP (2005) An intense terminal epoch of widespread fluvial activity on early Mars: 1. Valley network incision and associated deposits. J Geophys Res 110. doi:10.1029/2005JE002459Google Scholar
  19. Irwin RP III, Craddock RA, Howard AD (2005) Interior channels in Martian valley networks: discharge and runoff production. Geology 33(6):489–492. doi:10.1130/G21333.1CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Janocko M, Nemec W, Henriksen S, Warchol M (2012) The diversity of deep-water sinuous channel belts and slope valley-fill complexes. Marine Petrol Geol. dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.marpetgeo.2012.06.012Google Scholar
  21. Jaumann R, Kirk RL, Lorenz RD, Lopes RMC, Stofan E, Turtle EP, Keller HU, Wood CA, Sotin C, Soderblom LA, Tomasko MG (2009) Geology and surface processes on Titan. In: Brown RH et al (eds) Titan from Cassini-Huygens. Springer, pp 75–140. doi:10.1007/978-1-4020-9215-2_5Google Scholar
  22. Jaumann R, Nass A, Tirsch D, Reiss D, Neukum G (2010) The Western Libya Montes valley system on Mars: evidence for episodic and multi-genetic erosion events during the Martian history. Earth Planet Sci Lett 294:272–290. doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2009.09.026CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Julien PY (2002) River mechanics. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge/New York, p 434CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Karlstrom L, Gajjar P, Manga M (2013) Meander formation in supraglacial streams, J Geophys Res Earth Surf 118:1897–1907. doi:10.1002/jgrf.20135CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kolla V, Posameniter HW, Wood LJ (2007) Deep-water and fluvial sinuous channels – characteristics, similarities and dissimilarities, and modes of formation. Mar Petrol Geol 24:388–405CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Langhans MH, Jaumann R, Stephan K et al (2012) Titan’s fluvial valleys: morphology, distribution, and spectral properties. Planet Space Sci 60:34–51CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Leverington DW (2006) Volcanic processes as alternative mechanisms of landform development at a candidate crater-lake site near Tyrrhena Patera. Mars J Geophys Res 111. doi:10.1029/2004JE002382Google Scholar
  28. Makaske B (2001) Anastomosing rivers: a review of their classification, origin and sedimentary products. Earth-Sci Rev 53:149–196CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Mars Channel Working Group (1983) Channels and valleys on Mars. Geol Soc Am Bull 94(9):1035–1054. doi:10.1130/0016-7606CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Metz JM, Grotzinger JP, Mohrig D, Milliken R, Prather B, Pirmez C, McEwen AS, Weitz CM (2009) Sublacustrine depositional fans in southwest Melas Chasma. J Geophys Res 114, E10002. doi:10.1029/2009JE003365CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. NSSH (2008) Glossary of landform and geologic terms. In: Soil survey handbook, Part 629. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service. National soil survey handbook, title 430-VI. Available online at http://soils.usda.gov/technical/handbook/
  32. Nye JF (1973) Water at the bed of a glacier. Int Assoc Sci Hydrol 95:189–194Google Scholar
  33. Röthlisberger H (1972) Water pressure in intra- and subglacial channels. J Glaciol 11:177–203Google Scholar
  34. Sharp RP, Malin MC (1975) Channels on Mars. Geol Soc Am Bull 86:593–609CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Stanton TP, Shaw WJ, Truffer M, Corr HFJ, Peters LE, Riverman KL, Bindschadler R, Holland DM, Anandakrishnan S (2013) Channelized ice melting in the ocean boundary layer beneath Pine Island Glacier, Antarctica. Science 341(6151):1236–1239CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Williams RME, Irwin RP, Zimbelman JR (2009) Evaluation of paleohydrologic models for terrestrial inverted channels: implications for application to Martian sinuous ridges. Geomorphology 107:300–315CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Wilson L, Head JW (2004) Evidence for a massive phreatomagmatic eruption in the initial stages of formation of the Mangala Valles outflow channel. Mars Geophys Res Lett 31. doi:10.1029/2004GL020322Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gino Erkeling
    • 1
    Email author
  • Esther Stouthamer
    • 2
  • Henrik Hargitai
    • 3
  • Kirstie Fryirs
    • 4
  1. 1.Institut für PlanetologieWestfälische Wilhelms-UniversitätMünsterGermany
  2. 2.Department of Physical GeographyUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands
  3. 3.NASA Ames Research Center/NPPMoffett FieldUSA
  4. 4.Department of Environment and GeographyMacquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia