Global Warming is a hot topic here on Earth, but it may be the issue will be settled not here on Earth, but on Mars. A study of the ice caps on Mars suggests it is also experiencing a warming trend. A story about new data from NASA cites a six year study by researchers at Duke University showing that Mars may also be seeing a Global Warming trend and that both the Earth and Mars are seeing changes related to solar output.
You can click on this link to get a time-lapse image of the Mars ice cap changes between 1999 and 2001. It may take awhile to load as its 1.6 megabytes in size. Those with very high speed connections can get an even larger and more detailed time lapse here which is 6.2 megabytes in size
Planetary scientists have been watching melting of deep, wide pits in the southern Martian ice caps. The melting is substantial. According to Michael Malin, principal investigator for the Mars Orbiter Camera, the polar ice cap is shrinking at “a prodigious rate.”
Now where have we heard that before? Oh, seems Al Gore said in his movie An Inconvenient Truth that our own ice caps are melting and that we’ll see a 20 foot rise in sea level as a result. Here’s a transcript of the movie if you are interested.
The scientists believe this observed melting on Mars means that there is a layer of dry ice that is evaporating off of a thicker layer of water ice. The yearly increases in evaporation may be caused by a global warming trend happening on Mars.
The most recent images in the NASA sponsored study show changes from 1999 to 2005, suggesting the climate on Mars is presently warmer, and perhaps getting warmer still, than it was several years or decades ago.
Another recent NASA announcement, that recent water flows have also been discovered on Mars, also lends credence to the idea that Mars is getting warmer. One of the mechanisms suggested is that liquid water is subsurface, and that patches of dry ice acting as “plugs” are melting, releasing the water which moves enough surface material around before it freezes again to show up on photographic comparisons.
If both Mars and Earth are experiencing global warming, then maybe there is a larger phenomenon going on in the Solar System that is causing their global climates to change, like changes in the Sun. There’s correlating evidence showing sunspot trends match temperature trends on Earth. Mars may have a similar linkage.
But perhaps there will be those arguing it’s because we’ve landed two tiny SUV’s (Space Utility Vehicles) named Spirit and Opportunity on Mars surface.