The Red Planet has its own climate change issues.
New research is indicating that Mars also underwent an Ice Age event in its recent past, where the ice from the planet’s poles shifted to near the center of the world, according to an article in the LA Times.
The research team says the new findings allow a fresh look at the Martian climate and how it has changed over the eons. Unlike Earth, Mars has a pretty extreme wobble, in which the planet can recline as much as 60 degrees, compared to the 22-25 degree lean of our own world. Mars is currently setting at about a 25 degree tilt.
When the full tilt is realized, Mars would appear to be almost lying on its side, which would allow the planet’s poles to become quite warm, by Martian standards. Likely that extra warmth would turn some of the polar ice into vapor that would settle and re-freeze neat the middle latitudes of the planet.
And, if we could actually see Mars in that situation, it may not appear the same as the view with which we are familiar.
Lead author on the study, which was published in the journal Science, Isaac Smith, said at this current time, Mars is at its closest point to the Earth in the last 13 years, and looks like a “bright red jewel in the sky.” But Smith, a planetary scientist at the Planetary Science Institute in Tuscon, continued, “…if you were to live half a million years ago or half a million years in the future, it would look kind of a pinkish color instead of red.”
Smith used NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to collect radar data of the ice patterns on Mars’ north pole, when he noticed there appeared to be layers of ice that had been uniformly deposited across the cap. That indicated that at some point in the planet’s history, the polar cap received a lot of water ice.
Through more radar investigations, they team estimated some 87,000 cubic kilometers of ice had accumulated at the poles since the end of the planet’s last ice age, about 370,000 years ago.
Smith says the research could one day be useful for understanding climate change here on Earth, adding, “Mars, without oceans and without biology, is a more simple laboratory in a sense to understand the physics of climate.”