Loss of atmosphere from Mars due to solar wind-induced sputtering

Science  05 May 1995:
Vol. 268, Issue 5211, pp. 697-699
DOI: 10.1126/science.7732377


Because Mars does not have a strong intrinsic magnetic field, the atmosphere is eroded by interactions with the solar wind. Early solar-system conditions enhanced the sputtering loss. It is calculated that approximately 3 bars of carbon dioxide (CO2) have been sputtered over the last 3.5 billion years. This significant increase over the previous estimate by Luhmann et al. of approximately 0.14 bar of CO2 is the result of the development of a more complete model. The model also predicts slightly greater loss of water--approximately 80 meters instead of the approximately 50 meters predicted by Luhmann et al. Because estimates of CO2 on early Mars range from 0.5 to 5 bars, the 0.14-bar estimate is insignificant but the approximately 3-bar estimate will have a large effect on our understanding of the planet's evolution.