October 14, 2014

OMEGA/Mars Express: South Pole Region, water vapor daily variability

Melchiorri et Al.
Icarus, Volume 201, Issue 1, p. 102-112

Summary: Polar regions on Mars are the most suitable places to observe water vapor daily variability because in any observation crossing the Pole we can observe very different local time and because the poles are considered to be the main permanent and seasonal water reservoir of the planet. We report on a daily variability of water vapor in the South Pole Region (SPR), observed by OMEGA/Mars Express during the south spring–summer period (Ls˜250°–270°) outside the CO2 ice cap, that has never been observed before by other instruments. We have been able to estimate an increase of few precipitable microns during the day. A possible scenario includes the presence of regolith, or another component that could gather water from the atmosphere, adsorbing the water into the surface during the night time and desorbing it as soon as the Sun reaches sufficient height to heat the ground. This hypothesis is even more plausible considering the presence of observed local enhancements in the morning sections associated with the illumination of the Sun and the total absence in the data for water ice.