What is it about?

Mars has seasons just like Earth. Each Martian year, up to one third of the atmosphere's carbon dioxide is transported from pole to pole, being deposited during fall and winter and sublimated during spring and summer. In this study, we align the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA) profiles, an instrument onboard NASA's Mars Global Surveyor (MGS), to spatially and temporally resolve the snow/ice level at the south pole. An animation has been made to visualize this dynamic process.

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Why is it important?

Accurate measurements of snow level and volume variations of the resulting seasonal polar caps can serve as crucial constraints on the Martian volatile cycles. In addition, the thickness measurements can be combined with laboratory modeling to gain insights into the cold-jetting mechanism, which is responsible for the generation of various geological features, e.g., the troughs in the polar surface known as "spiders" or araneiform terrain.


While MOLA measurements are temporally limited to approximately 1 Martian year (~2 Earth years), a long-term snow/ice thickness variation mapping is conceivable in principle through the use of SHARAD (SHAllow RADar) radar altimetry. This instrument is mounted on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and has been in operation for more than 7 Martian years.

Haifeng Xiao
Technische Universitat Berlin

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Spatio‐temporal level variations of the Martian Seasonal South Polar Cap from co‐registration of MOLA profiles, Journal of Geophysical Research Planets, July 2022, American Geophysical Union (AGU),
DOI: 10.1029/2022je007196.
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