The Icy Polar Deposits of Mars and their Connection to Climate

EAS Spring 2018 Seminar Series Presents: Dr. Patricio Becerra, University of Bern, Switzerland

The polar regions of Mars contain vast deposits of ice that have accumulated over millions of years, and which together amount to a volume similar to that of the Greenland ice sheet on Earth. 

Thanks to massive canyons and troughs that dissect these deposits, remote imaging instruments on board Mars-orbiting spacecraft are able to observe their internal structure, revealing a stratified arrangement of icy layers with varying physical properties that are theorised to contain a detailed record of past climates.

 These remote sensing data act as "virtual" cores of Martian polar ice (analogous to deep-sea sediment and ice sheet cores on Earth) the properties of which can be studied and compared to the oscillations of Mars' astronomical parameters that force the planet's climate evolution. 

Understanding the connection between the polar stratigraphy and astronomically-forced climate would mean a major step forward in Mars science, much like the discovery of Milankovitch cycles for terrestrial geoscience.

 In this talk, I will describe the physical properties and stratigraphy of Mars' Polar Layered Deposits (PLD), as well as explain the methods used to correlate this stratigraphy to the climate history of Mars. Combining orbital images and radar data with time-series analysis and signal matching techniques, we are able to construct stratigraphic columns for the Martian polar caps and search for periodic patterns that can be compared to the cyclic variation of the climate-forcing parameters. These columns can later be used as input for models of ice and dust accumulation, which would ultimately lead to developing a complete picture of recent Martian climate evolution.

Event Details


  • Thursday, March 15, 2018
    11:00 am - 11:50 am
Location: Ford Environmental Science & Technology Bldg., Rm. L1205
Phone: 404-894-1757
Fee(s): Free

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  • Patricio Becerra

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Host: Britney Schmidt

Logistics: Natasha Lawson