Regolith-atmosphere exchange of water in Mars' recent past

Steele, Liam J.; Balme, Matthew R. and Lewis, Stephen R. (2017). Regolith-atmosphere exchange of water in Mars' recent past. Icarus, 284 pp. 233–248.



We investigate the exchange of water vapour between the regolith and atmosphere of Mars, and how it varies with different orbital parameters, atmospheric dust contents and surface water ice reservoirs. This is achieved through the coupling of a global circulation model (GCM) and a regolith diffusion model. GCM simulations are performed for hundreds of Mars years, with additional one-dimensional simulations performed for 50 kyr. At obliquities ε = 15° and 30°, the thermal inertia and albedo of the regolith have more control on the subsurface water distribution than changes to the eccentricity or solar longitude of perihelion. At ε = 45°, atmospheric water vapour abundances become much larger, allowing stable subsurface ice to form in the tropics and mid-latitudes. The circulation of the atmosphere is important in producing the subsurface water distribution, with increased water content in various locations due to vapour transport by topographically-steered flows and stationary waves. As these circulation patterns are due to topographic features, it is likely the same regions will also experience locally large amounts of subsurface water at different epochs. The dustiness of the atmosphere plays an important role in the distribution of subsurface water, with a dusty atmosphere resulting in a wetter water cycle and increased stability of subsurface ice deposits.

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