Report

Evidence of Water Vapor in Excess of Saturation in the Atmosphere of Mars

Science  30 Sep 2011:
Vol. 333, Issue 6051, pp. 1868-1871
DOI: 10.1126/science.1207957

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Abstract

The vertical distribution of water vapor is key to the study of Mars’ hydrological cycle. To date, it has been explored mainly through global climate models because of a lack of direct measurements. However, these models assume the absence of supersaturation in the atmosphere of Mars. Here, we report observations made using the SPICAM (Spectroscopy for the Investigation of the Characteristics of the Atmosphere of Mars) instrument onboard Mars Express that provide evidence of the frequent presence of water vapor in excess of saturation, by an amount far surpassing that encountered in Earth’s atmosphere. This result contradicts the widespread assumption that atmospheric water on Mars cannot exist in a supersaturated state, directly affecting our long-term representation of water transport, accumulation, escape, and chemistry on a global scale.

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