Possible Atmospheric Water Vapor Contribution from Martian Swiss Cheese Terrain Journal Article uri icon



  • Abstract; Mars’s south polar residual cap (SPRC) is a several-meters-thick CO2 ice cap with a variety of features, including quasi-circular depressions known as “Swiss cheese” that may expose underlying water ice. Swiss cheese pits have been suggested as a source for the observation of unusually high water vapor during the southern summer of Mars Year (MY) 8 (1969). To evaluate this hypothesis, we map the current extent of Swiss cheese pits to estimate the contribution to atmospheric water vapor from sublimation from the pits. We use data from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Context Camera to map individual features and use the Mars Climate Sounder to obtain surface temperatures to estimate areas of exposed water ice to infer the amount of water vapor sublimated under typical south polar summer atmospheric conditions. We find that there is a negligible impact on atmospheric water vapor from sublimation with the current coverage and temperatures of Swiss cheese terrain (0.2% of the SPRC at an average of ∼161 K). At current typical temperatures, complete removal of residual CO2 from 99% of the SPRC would be required to sublimate enough water vapor to reproduce the MY 8 observation. However, a modest increase in temperature (∼20 K) could lead to a dramatic increase in sublimation rate, such that only water ice over 2.6% of the SPRC area would recreate the MY 8 observation. >180 K surface water ice has been observed on Mars, but such temperatures are likely transient at the south pole over the past ∼30 Mars years.

publication date

  • October 1, 2022

has restriction

  • gold

Date in CU Experts

  • November 8, 2022 6:50 AM

Full Author List

  • Innanen AC; Landis ME; Hayne PO; Moores JE

author count

  • 4

Other Profiles

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 2632-3338

Additional Document Info

start page

  • 242

end page

  • 242


  • 3


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