Journal article Open Access

Strong water isotopic anomalies in the martian atmosphere: Probing current and ancient reservoirs

Villanueva, G. L.; Mumma, M. J.; Novak, R. E.; Kaufl, H. U.; Hartogh, P.; Encrenaz, T.; Tokunaga, A.; Khayat, A.; Smith, M. D.

Mapping Mars' water history We know the water cycle on Earth is complex. Neither is it simple on Mars. Infrared maps of water isotopes made by Villanueva et al. show the distribution of H2O and "semiheavy" water (HDO: deuterated water containing a mixture of hydrogen isotopes) across Mars. HDO enrichment varies with time and location; for example, irregular isotopic signals associate with different terrain features. The measurements also allow seasonal sublimation levels of the northern ice cap to be estimated and thus could be used to reveal past climate behavior. Science, this issue p. 218 We measured maps of atmospheric water (H2O) and its deuterated form (HDO) across the martian globe, showing strong isotopic anomalies and a significant high deuterium/hydrogen (D/H) enrichment indicative of great water loss. The maps sample the evolution of sublimation from the north polar cap, revealing that the released water has a representative D/H value enriched by a factor of about 7 relative to Earth's ocean [Vienna standard mean ocean water (VSMOW)]. Certain basins and orographic depressions show even higher enrichment, whereas high-altitude regions show much lower values (1 to 3 VSMOW). Our atmospheric maps indicate that water ice in the polar reservoirs is enriched in deuterium to at least 8 VSMOW, which would mean that early Mars (4.5 billion years ago) had a global equivalent water layer at least 137 meters deep. Maps of atmospheric water distribution reveal seasonal and spatial variations in the enrichment of deuterium to hydrogen. Maps of atmospheric water distribution reveal seasonal and spatial variations in the enrichment of deuterium to hydrogen.

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