Mars cryosphere: A potential reservoir for heavy noble gases?

Abstract : The two orders of magnitude drop between the measured atmospheric abundances of non radiogenic argon, krypton and xenon in Earth versus Mars is striking. Here, in order to account for this difference, we explore the hypothesis that clathrate deposits incorporated into the current Martian cryosphere have sequestered significant amounts of these noble gases assuming they were initially present in the paleoatmosphere in quantities similar to those measured on Earth (in mass of noble gas per unit mass of the planet). To do so, we use a statistical-thermodynamic model that predicts the clathrate composition formed from a carbon dioxide-dominated paleoatmosphere whose surface pressure ranges up to 3 bars. The influence of the presence of atmospheric sulfur dioxide on clathrate composition is investigated and we find that it does not alter the trapping efficiencies of other minor species. Assuming nominal structural parameters for the clathrate cages, we find that a carbon dioxide equivalent pressure of 0.03 and 0.9 bar is sufficient to trap masses of xenon and krypton, respectively, equivalent to those found on Earth in the clathrate deposits of the cryosphere. In this case, the amount of trapped argon is not sufficient to explain the measured Earth/Mars argon abundance ratio in the considered pressure range. In contrast, if one assumes a 2 % contraction of the clathrate cages, masses of xenon, krypton and argon at least equivalent to those found on Earth can be incorporated into clathrates if one assumes the trapping of carbon dioxide at equivalent atmospheric pressures of ∼2.3 bar. The proposed clathrate trapping mechanism could have then played an important role in the shaping of the current Martian atmosphere.
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Olivier Mousis, Jonathan I. Lunine, Eric Chassefière, Franck Montmessin, Azzedine Lakhlifi, et al.. Mars cryosphere: A potential reservoir for heavy noble gases?. Icarus, Elsevier, 2012, 218 (1), pp.80-87. 〈10.1016/j.icarus.2011.12.007〉. 〈hal-00654845〉



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