Clay Formation Study Leads to New Model for Early Martian Climate. How “warm” is warm?—-
A study led by Dr. Bishop of the SSX Branch at NASA Ames finds that short-term bursts of warmer environments during an otherwise colder early martian climate explains the mineralogy on Mars.
New Studies of Clay Formation Provide Clues about Early Martian Climate: A new climate model was developed for Mars that better explains how clays formed on the surface. Short-term warm and wet environments, occurring sporadically in a generally cold early Mars, are proposed to explain formation of surface clays on Mars.
INNOVATION: Part of this early Martian climate puzzle comes down to how “warm” is warm. Although Mars is currently below freezing, it must have once been warm enough for liquid water to carve out features on the surface. However, cold water is not warm enough for surface clays to form. We realized that in order to better constrain the early Martian climate, we needed to characterize the formation conditions of thick outcrops of martian surface clays.
IMPACT: Understanding the climate on early Mars provides constraints on when liquid water was present on the surface and is essential for determining where on Mars to search for life. Clays are the most abundant hydrated mineral on Mars; thus, defining their formation conditions is a big step towards defining the geochemical environment on Mars.