Evidence for recent climate change on Mars from the identification of youthful near-surface ground ice
Ground ice in the crust and soil may be one of the largest reservoirs of water on Mars. Near-surface ground ice is predicted to be stable at latitudes higher than 40° (ref. 4), where a number of geomorphologic features indicative of viscous creep and hence ground ice have been observed. Mid-latitude soils have also been implicated as a water-ice reservoir, the capacity of which is predicted to vary on a 100,000-year timescale owing to orbitally driven variations in climate. It is uncertain, however, whether near-surface ground ice currently exists at these latitudes, and how it is changing with time. Here we report observational evidence for a mid-latitude reservoir of near-surface water ice occupying the pore space of soils. The thickness of the ice-occupied soil reservoir (1-10m) and its distribution in the 30° to 60° latitude bands indicate a reservoir of (1.5-6.0)×104km3, equivalent to a global layer of water 10-40cm thick. We infer that the reservoir was created during the last phase of high orbital obliquity less than 100,000 years ago, and is now being diminished.
- Pub Date:
- July 2001