Stratigraphic and Isotopic Evolution of the Martian Polar Caps From Paleo-Climate Models

E. Vos, O. Aharonson, N. Schörghofer, F. Forget, E. Millour, L. Rossi, M. Vals, F. Montmessin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Exposed scarps images and ice-penetrating radar measurements in the North Polar Layered Deposits (NPLD) of Mars show alternating layers that provide an archive of past climate oscillations, that are thought to be linked to orbital variations, akin to Milankovitch cycles on Earth. We use the Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique Martian Global Climate Model to study paleoclimate states to enable a better interpretation of the NPLD physical and chemical stratigraphy. When a tropical ice reservoir is present, water vapor transport from the tropics to the poles at low obliquity is modulated by the intensity of summer. At times of low and relatively constant obliquity, the flux still varies due to other orbital elements, promoting polar layer formation. Ice migrates from the tropics toward the poles in two stages. First, when surface ice is present in the tropics, and second, when the equatorial deposit is exhausted, from ice that was previously deposited in mid-high latitudes. The polar accumulation rate is significantly higher when tropical ice is available, forming thicker layers per orbital cycle. However, the majority of the NPLD is sourced from ice that temporary resided in the mid-high latitudes and the layers become thinner as the source location moves poleward. The migration stages imprint different D/H ratios in different sections in the PLDs. The NPLD is isotopically depleted compared to the South Polar Layered Deposits in all simulations. Thus we predict the D/H ratio of the atmosphere in contact with NPLD upper layers is biased relative to the average global ice reservoirs.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2021JE007115
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Planets
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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