Feeds

Polar caps wane as Mars tries global warming

All those little green men in their 4x4s

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Global warming and melting polar ice caps are not just problems here on Earth. Mars is facing similar global changes, researchers say, with temperatures across the red planet rising by around 0.65 degrees over the last few decades.

The trigger for the changes on Mars are, however, totally different from those mechanisms controlling and influencing climate here on Earth. Researchers at the Carl Sagan centre in Mountain View, California, suggest that the planet's albedo, how much light it reflects, is a major factor in the warming.

Lori Fenton explains that current maps of the planet show it is much darker than it was in the late seventies, especially around the southern highlands.

Fenton explains that much of the lighter coloured dust that covers the planet has been swept aside by Martian dust devils, leaving the much darker bedrock exposed to the sun. This darker land holds the heat much more efficiently, warming the planet. in turn, this warming triggers stronger winds, exposing even more bedrock.

Phil Christensen, a planetary scientist at Arizona State, cautions against over-extrapolating from the data, however. He told Nature.com that it is unlikely that in 500 years time the Martian ice caps would be completely gone:

"They're looking at a piece of the cycle, other processes could turn this around to a place where the ice-caps start growing again. You can't take 10 years of data and extrapolate out to 1,000 years."

Christensen also cautions against drawing any parallels between the warming on Mars and on Earth. He said: "The more we learn about Mars, the more intuition it gives us about Earth, but the systems are fundamentally different."

Meanwhile, other researchers are sceptical about the scale of the change that Fenton has calculated, pointing out that different instruments measured the planet's albedo in the 70's and now. ®

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
Flamewars in SPAAACE: cooler fires hint at energy efficiency
Experiment aboard ISS shows we should all chill out for cleaner engines
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
NASA Mars rover FINALLY equals 1973 Soviet benchmark
Yet to surpass ancient Greek one, however
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Backing up Big Data
Solving backup challenges and “protect everything from everywhere,” as we move into the era of big data management and the adoption of BYOD.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.