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Early Martian oceans: the volcanic connection 21 December 2007

Posted by admin in climate, Mars, solar system.

A study to be published in Science magazine for 21 December 2007 argues that volcanically-produced sulphur dioxide and hydrogen sulphide may have kept Mars warm enough to sustain liquid water oceans during the early history of the red planet, around 4 billion years ago.

The paper, ‘A sulfur dioxide climate feedback on early Mars’, by Itay Halevy (Harvard University), Maria T. Zuber (MIT) and Daniel P. Schrag (Harvard University), is in Science, vol. 318, no. 5858, pp. 1903-1907. Abstract:

Ancient Mars had liquid water on its surface and a CO2-rich atmosphere. Despite the implication that massive carbonate deposits should have formed, these have not been detected. On the basis of fundamental chemical and physical principles, we propose that climatic conditions enabling the existence of liquid water were maintained by appreciable atmospheric concentrations of volcanically degassed SO2 and H2S. The geochemistry resulting from equilibration of this atmosphere with the hydrological cycle is shown to inhibit the formation of carbonates. We propose an early martian climate feedback involving SO2, much like that maintained by CO2 on Earth.

Related articles
Fire and brimstone helped form Mars Oceans – LiveScience (20 December 2007)
Sulfur dioxide kept ancient Mars ocean flowing – National Geographic News (20 December 2007)
Sulfur dioxide may have helped maintain a warm early Mars – ScienceDaily (20 December 2007)
Greenhouse clue to water on Mars – BBC News (20 December 2007)

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