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Tags Current Affairs

Icy Martian clouds

Date: 07 May 2021 Tags: Space

Issue

A team of researchers have used computer models to predict Martian climate and also possibility of rivers and lakes.

 

Background

Mars is known to be a desert planet as it does not contain any evidence of water. However, there are assumptions that water may have existed sometime in past.

 

Details

  • Scientists have always wondered why Mars lost its surface water since it received only one third of sunlight currently received by Earth.

  • Scientists made use of computer simulations to provide explanation of this phenomenon.

  • There must have been a thin layer of icy, high-altitude clouds that resulted in greenhouse effect.

 

Previous explanations

  • Scientists have not been able to provide meaningful evidences for evaporation of water. Some have stated that a meteor may have stuck, causing the planet to heat up.

  • Subsequent study indicated that heating event can sustain for a maximum of one to two years but the tracks of rivers showed that heating continued for hundreds of years.

 

The current explanation

  • There had to be presence of high clouds that have the ability to raise temperatures and cause greenhouse effect similar to carbon dioxide.

  • For the explanation to hold, water molecules had to linger for a longer time in atmosphere in comparison to Earth.

  • Scientists found the missing piece in form of surface ice at the poles that can make air on the ground drier and generating high layer of heating clouds.

  • Another condition was the amount of water on Mars’ surface, which was lower than Earth even at the peak of its habitability. This slowed down water cycle process.

 

Importance

  • Understanding the process of Mars gaining and losing its atmosphere will help in search for other habitable worlds.

  • It will also help in extending Earth’s climate stability so that we can take measures to support our habitat.

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