Water in the Martian atmosphere is 5.1 times more enriched in deuterium than terrestial water. The enrichment has been previously attributed to either a massive loss of water early in the planet's history or the presence of only a very small reservoir of water that has exchanged with the atmosphere over geologic time. Both these interpretations appear inconsistent with geologic evidence of large floods and sustained volcanism. Large floods are believed to have episodically introduced large amounts of water onto the surface. During a large flood roughly 1017 g of water would almost immediately sublime into the atmospher and be frozen out on polar terrain, to form a new layer several centimeters thick. The long-term effect of a flood would depend on where the water pooled after the flood. If the water pooled at low latitudes, all the water would slowly sublime into the atmosphers and ultimately be frozen out at the poles, thereby adding several meters to the polar deposits for each flood. If the water pooled at high latitude, it would form a permanent ice deposit, largely isolated from further interchange with the atmosphere. Volcanism has also episodically introduced water into the atmosphere. Most of this water has become incorporated into the polar deposits. That released over the last 3.5 Ga could have added a few kilometers to the polar deposits, depending on the amount of dust incorporated along with the ice. Large cometary impacts would have introduced additional large amounts of water into the atmosphere. The long-term evolution of D/H in the atmosphere depends on the rate of exchange of water between the atmosphere and the polar deposits. If exchange is active, then loss rates of hydrogen from the upper atmosphere are substantially higher than those estimated by Y. L. Yung, J. Wen, J. P. Pinto, M. Allen, K. K. Pierce, and S. Paulsen [Icarus 76, 146-159 (1988)]. More plausibly, exchange of water between the atmosphere and the polar deposits is limited, so that after eruptions, floods, and cometary impacts, the atmosphere soon becomes enriched in deuterium. According to this scenario, the atmospheric D/H is different from the bulk of the planet's water and so reveals little about the amount of water outgassed. The scenario implies, however, that the polar deposits are older and more stable than formerly thought. ?? 1990.
Additional Publication Details
D/H on Mars: Effects of floods, volcanism, impacts, and polar processes