Seasonal redistribution of water in the surficial Martian regolith: Results from the Mars Odyssey high-energy neutron detector (HEND)

R. O. Kuzmin, E. V. Zabalueva, I. G. Mitrofanov, M. L. Litvak, A. V. Rodin, W. V. Boynton, R. S. Saunders

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The seasonal variation of neutron emissions from Mars in different spectral intervals measured by the HEND neutron detector for the entire Martian year are analyzed. Based on these data, the spatial variations of the neutron emissions from the planet are globally mapped as a function of season, and the dynamics of seasonal variation of neutron fluxes with different energies is analyzed in detail. No differences were found between seasonal regimes of neutron fluxes in different energy ranges in the southern hemisphere of Mars, while the regime of fast neutrons (with higher energies) during the northern winter strongly differs from that during the southern winter. In winter (L s = 270°-330°), the fast neutron fluxes are noticeably reduced in the northern hemisphere (along with the consecutive thickening of the seasonal cap of solid carbon dioxide). This provides evidence of a temporary increase in the water content in the effective layer of neutron generation. According to the obtained estimates, the observed reduction of the flux of fast neutrons in the effective layer corresponds to an increase in the water abundance of up to 5% in the seasonal polar cap (70°-90°N), about 3% at mid-latitudes, and from 1.5 to 2% at low latitudes. The freezing out of atmospheric water at the planetary surface (at middle and high latitudes) and the hydration of salt minerals composing the Martian soil are considered as the main processes responsible for the temporary increase in the water content in the soil and upper layer of the seasonal polar cap. The meridional atmospheric transport of water vapor from the summer southern to the winter northern hemisphere within the Hadley circulation cell is a basic process that delivers water to the subsurface soil layer and ensures the observed scale of the seasonal increase in water abundance. In the summer northern hemisphere, the similar Hadley circulation cell transports mainly dry air masses to the winter southern hemisphere. The point is that the water vapor becomes saturated at lower heights during aphelion, and the bulk of the atmospheric water mass is captured in the near-equatorial cloudy belt and, thus, is only weakly transferred to the southern hemisphere. This phenomenon, known as the Clancy effect, was suggested by Clancy et al. (1996) as a basic mechanism for the explanation of the interhemispheric asymmetry of water storage in permanent polar caps. The asymmetry of seasonal meridional circulation of the Martian atmosphere seems to be another factor determining the asymmetry of the seasonal water redistribution in the "atmosphere-regolith-seasonal polar caps" system, found in the peculiarities of the seasonal regime of the neutron emission of Mars.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)89-102
Number of pages14
JournalSolar System Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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