Climatic Change on Mars

Science  14 Sep 1973:
Vol. 181, Issue 4104, pp. 1045-1049
DOI: 10.1126/science.181.4104.1045


The equatorial sinuous channels on Mars detected by Mariner 9 point to a past epoch of higher pressures and abundant liquid water. Advective instability of the martian atmosphere permits two stable climates—one close to present conditions, the other at a pressure of the order of 1 bar depending on the quantity of buried volatiles. Variations in the obliquity of Mars, the luminosity of the sun, and the albedo of the polar caps each appear capable of driving the instability between a current ice age and more clement conditions. Obliquity driving alone implies that epochs of much higher and of much lower pressure must have characterized martian history. Climatic change on Mars may have important meteorological, geological, and biological implications.