Amazonian Northern Mid-Latitude Glaciation on Mars: A Proposed Climate Scenario

Abstract : Recent geological observations in the northern mid-latitudes of Mars show evidence for past glacial activity during the late Amazonian, similar to the integrated glacial landsystems in the Dry Valleys of Antarctica. The large accumulation of ice (many hundreds of meters) required to create the observed glacial deposits points to significant atmospheric precipitation, snow and ice accumulation, and glacial flow. In order to understand the climate scenario required for these conditions, we used the LMD (Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique) Mars GCM (General Circulation Model), which is able to reproduce the present-day water cycle, and to predict past deposition of ice consistent with geological observations in many cases. Prior to this analysis, however, significant mid-latitude glaciation had not been simulated by the model, run under a range of parameters. In this analysis, we studied the response of the GCM to a wider range of orbital configurations and water ice reservoirs, and show that during periods of moderate obliquity (ϵ = 25–35°) and high dust opacity (τdust = 1.5–2.5), broad-scale glaciation in the northern mid-latitudes occurs if water ice deposited on the flanks of the Tharsis volcanoes at higher obliquity is available for sublimation. We find that high dust contents of the atmosphere increase its water vapor holding capacity, thereby moving the saturation region to the northern mid-latitudes. Precipitation events are then controlled by topographic forcing of stationary planetary waves and transient weather systems, producing surface ice distribution and amounts that are consistent with the geological record. Ice accumulation rates of ∼10 mm yr−1 lead to the formation of a 500–1000 m thick regional ice sheet that will produce glacial flow patterns consistent with the geological observations.
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Jean-Baptiste Madeleine, François Forget, James W. Head, Benjamin Levrard, Franck Montmessin, et al.. Amazonian Northern Mid-Latitude Glaciation on Mars: A Proposed Climate Scenario. Icarus, Elsevier, 2009, 203 (2), pp.390-405. 〈10.1016/j.icarus.2009.04.037〉. 〈hal-00399202〉

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