Home North pole ice What do Mars’ ice caps reveal about the planet’s climate? –...

What do Mars’ ice caps reveal about the planet’s climate? – The clear people

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Due to its inclination, Mars undergoes seasonal changes, whose temperature variations result in interactions between the atmosphere and the ice caps present on the planet. With these changes, the ice caps present in one hemisphere expand, while others shrink. So, in a new study, an international team of researchers investigated this process using data from the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) mission, and the results can show how variations in the planet’s climate occur depending on seasonal changes.

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Today, we already know that the caps of Mars are made up of three parts. The first of these is the residual or permanent polar cap, formed by thick layers of water ice at the north pole and a layer of carbon dioxide frozen in blankets 8 m thick, located at the south pole. . Underneath are polar layered deposits (PLD), which can be up to a few kilometers thick and formed from frozen water and dust.

“Spiders” emerging from the carbon dioxide cap at the south pole of Mars (Image: Reproduction / NASA / JPL-Caltech)

Next is the seasonal ice cap, made up of carbon dioxide, which occurs during the winter on top of these other permanent structures. The authors worked with this layer to understand how it is affected by seasonal variations in temperature and solar radiation, as well as how this relates to annual variations in Mars’ climate.

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Haifeng Xiao, lead author of the study, describes that each year on the Red Planet about 30% of the mass of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is exchanged with polar surfaces during sublimation or seasonal deposition. Therefore, temporal variations in ice and snow levels and volumes associated with this process can place critical restrictions on Mars’ climate system and volatile circulation patterns.

He also considers that the seasonal buildup of frozen compost, which forms seasonal polar ice caps, can be influenced by other processes, such as dust storms. Therefore, the short and long term variability of the ice caps can also indicate the variability of the planet’s climate. The year on Mars lasts 660 Earth days, and the seasonal changes that occur cause atmospheric carbon dioxide to flow out of the North Pole. to the south and vice versa. This causes large amounts of dust and water vapor to be transported, creating frost and clouds visible from space.

The sublimation process is also at the origin of other phenomena, such as the ridges carved in the dunes of northern Martian. Thus, understanding the relationship between seasonal ice caps and the formation of geological structures can help us better understand the environment of Mars. For this, the authors used the data obtained by the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA) instrument, present at the MGS, to obtain precise measurements of the dimensions of the planet’s caps over time, by reprocessing recently obtained data.

Dunes near the north pole of Mars (Image: Reproduction / NASA / JPL-Caltech / University of Arizona)

This information was recorded in a digital elevation model (DEM) to enable them to understand the seasonal variations in the thickness of the frozen carbon dioxide, and they also proposed a correction procedure to increase the accuracy of the change measurements. As a result, they were able to measure height variations with an accuracy of about 4.9 cm and maximum variations with an accuracy of 2.2 m.

The measurements obtained allow planetologists to learn more about the climate and changes on the planet, as well as help plan future robotic and, who knows, manned missions there. The team has extended these findings to the entire South Pole of the planet, an area they hope to explore further in a study that has yet to be published. In addition, they also plan to compare the results with those obtained from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter space probe.

The article with the results of the study was made available in the arXiv online repository, without peer review.

Source: Universe today

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