Carbon dioxide ice glaciers at the South Pole of Mars

I. B. Smith, N.-J. Schlegel, E. Larour, I. Isola, P. B. Buhler, N. E. Putzig and R. Greve


Massive, kilometer thick deposits of carbon dioxide (CO2) ice have been detected at the south polar cap of Mars by radar investigations. These deposits are divided into several units that are separated by thin water ice bounding layers. Recent studies investigated the accumulation history of CO2 ice and found that the deposits most likely formed during several episodes in the past, when Martian obliquity was much lower than now. Those studies, while able to predict total volumes of CO2 ice consistent with those observed, did not attempt to explain the anomalous three-dimensional distribution (thickness or extent) of CO2 ice or the ice's offset from the topographic high of the polar cap. In this paper we use a combination of feature analysis and numerical modeling to demonstrate that the CO2 deposits flow as glaciers and that glacial flow distributes the ice into its current position. Further, this distribution allows the ice to survive during high obliquity excursions.

Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets 127 (4), e2022JE007193 (2022).   external link DOI

Last modified: 2022-04-27