Testing the Early Mars H2-CO2 Greenhouse Hypothesis with a 1-D Photochemical Model

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
July 10, 2015
Filed under
Testing the Early Mars H2-CO2 Greenhouse Hypothesis with a 1-D Photochemical Model

A recent study by Ramirez et al. (2014) demonstrated that an atmosphere with 1.3-4 bar of CO2 and H2O, in addition to 5-20% H2, could have raised the mean annual and global surface temperature of early Mars above the freezing point of water.

Such warm temperatures appear necessary to generate the rainfall (or snowfall) amounts required to carve the ancient martian valleys. Here, we use our best estimates for early martian outgassing rates, along with a 1-D photochemical model, to assess the conversion efficiency of CO, CH4, and H2S to CO2, SO2, and H2. Our outgassing estimates assume that Mars was actively recycling volatiles between its crust and interior, as Earth does today. H2 production from serpentinization and deposition of banded iron-formations is also considered. Under these assumptions, maintaining an H2 concentration of ~1-2% by volume is achievable, but reaching 5% H2 requires additional H2 sources or a slowing of the hydrogen escape rate below the diffusion limit.

If the early martian atmosphere was indeed H2-rich, we might be able to see evidence of this in the rock record. The hypothesis proposed here is consistent with new data from the Curiosity Rover, which show evidence for a long-lived lake in Gale Crater near Mt. Sharp. It is also consistent with measured oxygen fugacities of martian meteorites, which show evidence for progressive mantle oxidation over time.

Natasha Batalha, Shawn D. Domagal-Goldman, Ramses Ramirez, James Kasting
(Submitted on 9 Jul 2015)

Comments: 23 pages, 9 figures, published Icarus
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)
Journal reference: Icarus, 2015 Volume 258, 15 September 2015, Pages 337-349
DOI: 10.1016/j.icarus.2015.06.016
Cite as: arXiv:1507.02569 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:1507.02569v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
Submission history
From: Natasha Batalha
[v1] Thu, 9 Jul 2015 15:56:10 GMT (3171kb)

Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻