Though not subject to pollutants of human habitation, Mars appears to be undergoing global warming, with new data suggesting the planet is possibly emerging from an ice age.
According to a report in Space.com, NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter has spotted seasonal changes, such as the advance and retreat of polar ice, but it also is gathering information pointing to long-term trends.
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William Feldman of the Los Alamos National Laboratory tells the site the current climate conditions, including too much frozen water at low-latitude regions, suggests something is out of equilibrium on Mars.
“One explanation could be that Mars is just coming out of an ice age,” Feldman told Space.com. “In some low-latitude areas, the ice has already dissipated. In others, that process is slower and hasn’t reached an equilibrium yet. Those areas are like the patches of snow you sometimes see persisting in protected spots long after the last snowfall of the winter.”
According to the report, frozen water makes up as much as 10 percent of the top three feet of surface material in some regions close to the equator. Dust deposits may be covering and insulating the lingering ice, Feldman said.
Feldman is the scientist in charge of an Odyssey instrument that assesses water content indirectly through measurements of neutron emissions.
“Odyssey is giving us indications of recent global climate change on Mars,” Jeffrey Plaut, project scientist for the mission at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, is quoted as saying.
According to the report, other data from Odyssey is helping scientists figure out what is going on climatologically on the planet. The orbiter has been surveying the planet for nearly a full Martian year.
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