In the 1970s, Mariner and Viking observed features in the Mars northern polar region that were a few hundred kilometers in diameter with 20 fj,m brightness temperatures as low as 130 K (considerably below C02 ice sublimation temperatures). Over the past decade, studies have shown that these areas (commonly called "cold spots") are usually due to emissivity effects of frost deposits and occasionally to active C02 snowstorms. Three Mars years of Mars Global Surveyor Thermal Emission Spectrometer data were used to observe autumn and wintertime cold spot activity within the polar regions. Many cold spots formed on or near scarps of the perennial cap, probably induced by adiabatic cooling due to orographic lifting. These topographically associated cold spots were often smaller than those that were not associated with topography. We determined that initial grain sizes within the cold spots were on the order of a few millimeters, assuming the snow was uncontaminated by dust or water ice. On average, the half-life of the cold spots was 5 Julian days. The Mars global dust storm in 2001 significantly affected cold spot activity in the north polar region. Though overall perennial cap cold spot activity seemed unaffected, the distribution of cold spots did change by a decrease in the number of topographically associated cold spots and an increase in those not associated with topography. We propose that the global dust storm affected the processes that form cold spots and discuss how the global dust storm may have affected these processes. ?? 2009 by the American Geophysical Union.
Additional publication details
Spatial and temporal distributions of Martian north polar cold spots before, during, and after the global dust storm of 2001