It seems that winter is going, and not coming, as a new study shows that Mars is coming out of an ice age that is part of a continuous climate change cycle.
The research, published in the journal Science, shows that the Martian Ice age began it’s retreat around 370,000 years ago which brings it towards the end of the last ice age. The scientists, as usual, are very keen on noticing this change since it has been postulated for quite some time that Mars once was the abode to many lakes and oceans — one of the primary factors for sustainable life on any planet.
Using computer simulations the scientists can now measure the ice more accurately and create a model of the Martian climate, according to Isaac Smith, planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Colorado, who is also the lead author of the study. The study was also the first to attribute a certain layer of ice on Mars to a specific period of time.
The data received from orbiting satellites suggests that planet’s poles have accumulated around 87,000 cubic kilometers of ice since the end of the ice age, mostly around the northern pole.
However, unlike the ice age on Earth, Mars faces its period of extreme cold when the poles are warmer than usual and the frozen water is more stable at lower latitudes. According to the scientists, these changes between long climate phases can leave some really interesting features in the ice. For example, ice flowing in the reverse direction or really high slopes in the layers of ice within the ice cap.
The reason for the climate shift is due to Mars’ high axis tilt of 60 degrees, which is way more than the two degrees tilt of Earth. Every day on Mars can seem like an ice age from a human perspective, considering the equator hits a high of 20 degrees celsius during summer and a low of -153 degrees celsius at the poles.