EPJ Web of Conferences
Volume 1, 2009ERCA 2008 - From the Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change to the Observation of the Earth from Space
|Page(s)||235 - 248|
|Published online||25 February 2009|
The present and past climates of planet Mars
Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique, IPSL, CNRS, Université Paris 6, BP. 99, 75005 Paris, France
Mars is a small planet with a thin atmosphere of almost pure carbon dioxide. To first order, the Martian meteorology can be compared with what one would expect on a cold, dry desert-like Earth. However, several phenomena make the Martian climate system more complex than it appears. First, as much as 30% of the carbon dioxide atmosphere condenses every winter at high latitude to form CO2 ice polar caps, inducing large surface pressure variations all over the planet and an atmospheric circulation without equivalent on Earth. Second, a highly variable amount of suspended dust lifted by the winds modifies the radiative properties of the atmosphere, with sometime global dust storms able to totally shroud the planet. Last, a peculiar water cycle occurs on Mars, with water vapor transported by the atmosphere between the polar caps and possibly subsurface reservoirs, allowing the formation of clouds, hazes and frost. Telescopic and spacecraft observations have shown us that this complex climate system is highly variable, seasonally and from year to year, but these variations remain poorly understood. In fact, the Martian climate system has probably experienced large variations related to the oscillations in the parameters of the orbit and rotation of Mars (obliquity) a few millions or even thousand of years ago. These oscillations affected surface temperatures and the water cycle, inducing the mobilization and accumulation of large ice deposits in various locations on the planets. In a much distant past, it is also likely that Mars may have been a completely different planet. The observations of the geology (dry riverbeds and deltas, lacustrine sediments) and mineralogy (clay, sulfate) of the oldest surface on Mars dating back to more than 3 billions years ago provide evidence that liquid water was then abundant on the surface, at least episodically. Mars may have been warmed by a thicker atmosphere containing greenhouse gas and clouds, high geothermal fluxes, or episodically by large asteroid impacts.
© EDP Sciences, 2009
Current usage metrics show cumulative count of Article Views (full-text article views including HTML views, PDF and ePub downloads, according to the available data) and Abstracts Views on Vision4Press platform.
Data correspond to usage on the plateform after 2015. The current usage metrics is available 48-96 hours after online publication and is updated daily on week days.
Initial download of the metrics may take a while.