Report

Seasonal Variations of Snow Depth on Mars

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Science  07 Dec 2001:
Vol. 294, Issue 5549, pp. 2141-2146
DOI: 10.1126/science.1066556

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Abstract

Using topography collected over one martian year from the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter on the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) spacecraft, we have measured temporal changes in the elevation of the martian surface that correlate with the seasonal cycle of carbon dioxide exchange between the surface and atmosphere. The greatest elevation change (1.5 to 2 meters) occurs at high latitudes ( above 80°), whereas the bulk of the mass exchange occurs at lower latitudes (below 75° N and below 73° S). An unexpected period of sublimation was observed during northern hemisphere autumn, coincident with dust storms in the southern hemisphere. Analysis of MGS Doppler tracking residuals revealed temporal variations in the flattening of Mars that correlate with elevation changes. The combined changes in gravity and elevation constrain the average density of seasonally deposited carbon dioxide to be 910 ± 230 kilograms per cubic meter, which is considerably denser than terrestrial snow.

  • * To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: dsmith{at}tharsis.gsfc.nasa.gov

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