Stratigraphy and evolution of the buried CO2 deposit in the Martian south polar cap

C. J. Bierson, R. J. Phillips, I. B. Smith, S. E. Wood, N. E. Putzig, D. Nunes, S. Byrne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Observations by the Shallow Radar instrument on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter reveal several deposits of buried CO2 ice within the south polar layered deposits. Here we present mapping that demonstrates this unit is 18% larger than previously estimated, containing enough mass to double the atmospheric pressure on Mars if sublimated. We find three distinct subunits of CO2 ice, each capped by a thin (10-60 m) bounding layer (BL). Multiple lines of evidence suggest that each BL is dominated by water ice. We model the history of CO2 accumulation at the poles based on obliquity and insolation variability during the last 1 Myr assuming a total mass budget consisting of the current atmosphere and the sequestered ice. Our model predicts that CO2 ice has accumulated over large areas several times during that period, in agreement with the radar findings of multiple periods of accumulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4172-4179
Number of pages8
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 16 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Mars

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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