Volcanoes that had erupted on Mars not only warmed the Red Planet, but eventually produced liquid water on its surface as well. Scientists believe that volcanoes on Mars once might have been active and would have supposedly warmed the planet enough for the liquid water to exist on the Martian surface for a short period of time.
Mars currently has lake beds, dry river channels, and lake basins that give evidence that liquid water must have flown across the surface of the Red Planet. The water flow patterns on Mars suggest water flow on the planet occurred about 3.7 billion years ago, which is also believed to be the same time there was a massive volcanic out-pour. This suggests the water flow and volcanic activity on Mars were connected.
Sulfur dioxide gas, released by volcanoes, may have created conditions warm enough for liquid water to flow during several points in the history of the planet. These eras of warmth each lasted just a few tens of thousands of years before the planet cooled once more.
“These new climate models that predict a cold and ice-covered world have been difficult to reconcile with the abundant evidence that water flowed across the surface to form streams and lakes,”
said James Head, one of the researchers, in a news release.
“This new analysis provides a mechanism for episodic periods of heating and melting of snow and ice that could have each lasted decades to centuries.”
In order to test how volcanism might possibly cause warmer temperatures, the researchers created a model. In other words they examined how sulfuric acid might react with widespread dust in the Martian atmosphere. The model revealed that the sulfuric acid particles would have attached to dust particles, which would reduce their ability to reflect the sun’s rays. Meanwhile, sulfur dioxide gas would produce a modest greenhouse effect-just enough to warm the Martian equatorial region.
“The average yearly temperature in the Antarctic Dry Valleys is way below freezing, but peak summer daytime temperatures can exceed the melting point of water, forming transient streams which then refreeze,”
“In a similar manner, we find that volcanism can bring the temperature on early Mars above the melting point for decades to centuries, causing episodic periods of stream and lake formation.”
The findings are published in the journal Nature Geoscience.