Title

South America and the Red Planet: Analysis of NASA's Climate Databases to Hypothesize Limits to Global Change on Mars

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Presentation

Abstract

Study of the morphology and mineralogy of Mars reveals features that seem to indicate presence of significant liquid water on the surface in the past, including putative dry lakes, valleys, channels, deltas and alluvial fans [1]. This has resulted in theories of a period of global Martian climate change between 3.7 and 3.2 billion years ago, from a wetter, and possibly warmer, environment to the arid one seen today. However, isotope studies and modeling have failed to provide definitive constraints on the early climate of Mars [2]. The study of analog sites on Earth may provide a different avenue to understanding possible changes on Mars during this period. Previous work on this project has sought to link four sites in the Andes of South America to stages of the proposed climate change through comparison of satellite images to features found on Mars. The northern sites on the Chilean and Bolivian Altiplano, with their drying lakes and alluvial fans, resemble a Mars towards the close of the theorized climate change. On the other hand, the southern sites in the High Andes more closely represent the hypothesized early Martian climate, with active deltas and glaciers. Remote sensing climate data from NASA’s Giovanni databases can now be used to study how large a change in atmospheric pressure, temperature, humidity and precipitation might have occurred between the stages of climate change represented by these sites. For example, while there is no significant change in temperature between the northern and the southern sites, the southern sites receive more than 50% more precipitation. Additionally, we can study how quickly these variables are currently changing to place a rate of change on each of the stages.

[1] Kleinhans M. (2010) Earth Surf. Process. Landforms, 35, 102–117.

[2] Cassata W. S. et al. (2001) Icarus, 221, 461.

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South America and the Red Planet: Analysis of NASA's Climate Databases to Hypothesize Limits to Global Change on Mars

UC 331

Study of the morphology and mineralogy of Mars reveals features that seem to indicate presence of significant liquid water on the surface in the past, including putative dry lakes, valleys, channels, deltas and alluvial fans [1]. This has resulted in theories of a period of global Martian climate change between 3.7 and 3.2 billion years ago, from a wetter, and possibly warmer, environment to the arid one seen today. However, isotope studies and modeling have failed to provide definitive constraints on the early climate of Mars [2]. The study of analog sites on Earth may provide a different avenue to understanding possible changes on Mars during this period. Previous work on this project has sought to link four sites in the Andes of South America to stages of the proposed climate change through comparison of satellite images to features found on Mars. The northern sites on the Chilean and Bolivian Altiplano, with their drying lakes and alluvial fans, resemble a Mars towards the close of the theorized climate change. On the other hand, the southern sites in the High Andes more closely represent the hypothesized early Martian climate, with active deltas and glaciers. Remote sensing climate data from NASA’s Giovanni databases can now be used to study how large a change in atmospheric pressure, temperature, humidity and precipitation might have occurred between the stages of climate change represented by these sites. For example, while there is no significant change in temperature between the northern and the southern sites, the southern sites receive more than 50% more precipitation. Additionally, we can study how quickly these variables are currently changing to place a rate of change on each of the stages.

[1] Kleinhans M. (2010) Earth Surf. Process. Landforms, 35, 102–117.

[2] Cassata W. S. et al. (2001) Icarus, 221, 461.