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The distribution of ground ice on MarsA wealth of geologic evidence indicates that subsurface water ice has played an important role in the evolution of Martian landforms. Theoretical models of the stability of ground ice show that in the near-surface regolith ice is currently stable at latitudes poleward of about +/- 40 deg and below a depth of a few centimeters to a meter, with some variations with longitude. If ice is not previously present at a particular location where it is stable, atmospheric water will diffuse into the regolith and condense as ice, driven by the annual subsurface thermal oscillations. The lower boundary of this ice deposit is found to occur at a depth (typically a few meters) where the annual thermal oscillations give way to the geothermal gradient. In the equatorial regions near-surface ice is currently not stable, resulting in the sublimation of any existing ice and subsequent loss to the atmosphere. However, subliming ice might be maintained at a steady-state depth, where diffusion and loss to the atmosphere are balanced by resupply from a possible deeper source of water (either deeper, not yet depleted, ice deposits or ground water). This depth is typically a few tens to hundreds of meters and depends primarily on the surface temperature and the nature of the geothermal gradient, being deeper for a higher surface temperature and a lower geothermal gradient. Such an equatorial deposit is characterized by the regolith ice content being low nearer the surface and increasing with depth in the deposit. Oscillations in the orbit will affect this picture of ground ice in two ways: by causing periodic changes in the pattern of near-surface stability and by producing subsurface thermal waves that may be capable of driving water ice deeper into the regolith.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Mellon, M. T. (Colorado Univ. Boulder, CO, United States)
Jakosky, B. M. (Colorado Univ. Boulder, CO, United States)
Date Acquired
September 6, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 1993
Publication Information
Publication: Lunar and Planetary Inst., Workshop on the Martian Northern Plains: Sedimentological, Periglacial, and Paleoclimatic Evolution
Subject Category
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.

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