Volatile trapping in martian clathrates

Olivier Mousis, Eric Chassefière, Jérémie Lasue, Vincent Chevrier, Megan E. Elwood Madden, Azzedine Lakhlifi, Jonathan I. Lunine, Franck Montmessin, Sylvain Picaud, Frédéric Schmidt, Timothy D. Swindle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Thermodynamic conditions suggest that clathrates might exist on Mars. Despite observations which show that the dominant condensed phases on the surface of Mars are solid carbon dioxide and water ice, clathrates have been repeatedly proposed to play an important role in the distribution and total inventory of the planet's volatiles. Here we review the potential consequences of the presence of clathrates on Mars. We investigate how clathrates could be a potential source for the claimed existence of atmospheric methane. In this context, plausible clathrate formation processes, either in the close subsurface or at the base of the cryosphere, are reviewed. Mechanisms that would allow for methane release into the atmosphere from an existing clathrate layer are addressed as well. We also discuss the proposed relationship between clathrate formation/dissociation cycles and how potential seasonal variations influence the atmospheric abundances of argon, krypton and xenon. Moreover, we examine several Martian geomorphologic features that could have been generated by the dissociation of extended subsurface clathrate layers. Finally we investigate the future in situ measurements, as well as the theoretical and experimental improvements that will be needed to better understand the influence of clathrates on the evolution of Mars and its atmosphere.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)213-250
Number of pages38
JournalSpace Science Reviews
Issue number1-4
StatePublished - Jan 2013


  • Atmosphere
  • Clathrates
  • Cryosphere
  • Mars
  • Polar caps

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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