Carbon photochemical escape rates from the modern Mars atmosphere

Daniel Y. Lo, Roger V. Yelle, Robert J. Lillis, Justin I. Deighan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


We provide a comprehensive update of photochemical escape rates of atomic carbon from the present-day Martian atmosphere using a one-dimensional photochemical model and a Monte Carlo escape model. The photochemical model incorporates new results relevant to carbon photochemistry at Mars, including new cross sections for photodissociation of CO2 into C and O2 (Lu et al. 2014) and electron impact dissociation of CO (Ajello et al. 2019). We find the newly included channel of CO2 photodissociation to be the largest contributor to C escape, at 34%–58%. CO photodissociation and CO+ dissociative recombination, which have been discussed extensively in the literature, also show up as significant sources of hot C atoms, with respective contributions of 15%–23% and 7%–10%. Electron impact dissociation of CO2 (11%–15%) and photoionization of CO (6%–20%) are also important channels. Overall, escape rates vary over 3–11×1023 s−1, with an increase of 70% at perihelion compared to aphelion, and a much larger increase of 133% at solar maximum compared to solar minimum. While these present escape rates give a total integrated escape of only 1.3 mbar of CO2 when multiplied by 3.6 billion years, the better characterization of carbon photochemistry and escape from this study will enable us to more reliably extrapolate backwards in time to when conditions of the Martian atmosphere were significantly different from those of today.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number114371
StatePublished - May 15 2021


  • Atmospheres, chemistry
  • Atmospheres, evolution
  • Mars, atmosphere

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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