The polar regions of Mars preserve, in both their layering and their topography, a record of recent climate changes. Because of the coincidence of the growth of the northern seasonal cap with global dust storms, dust may be currently accumulating on the northern cap, but conditions at the poles will alternate with the precessional cycle. Deposition is also modulated by changes in eccentricity and obliquity, which interact complexly, affecting initiation of global dust storms, the stability of volatiles at the surface, and global wind regimes. Formation of spiral valleys and low undulations on the surface of the layered deposits may result from prefential sublimation of volatiles on sunward-facing slopes and condensation on the adjacent flats, with the rates also modulated by astronomically caused insolation variations. Lack of impact craters on the surface and lack of interruption of the layers by impact scars suggest that the polar deposits are no more than a few million years old. Older deposits may have been periodically removed, as indicated by etch-pitted terrain at the south pole and by superposition relations around the periphery of the present layered deposits. Evidence of ancient periodic climate changes that occurred before formation of the present layered terrain is fragmentary but includes pedestal craters, parallel moraine-like ridges, and etched ground at high latitudes. Perturbation of the orbital motions also results in adsorption and desorption of volatiles in the regolith, which leads to variations in atmospheric pressure and partial dehydration of the equatorial near-surface materials. ?? 1982.
Additional publication details
Periodic climate change on Mars: Review of evidence and effects on distribution of volatiles