Blog: Long-term and short-term climate change of Mars: What can we learn from future spacecraft missions?

On the 26th of May (2015), we attended a Keynote public Lecture at the Royal Irish Academy, delivered by Dr. Ernst Hauber of the Institut für Planetenforschung, Berlin.


Dr Hauber

The lecture was organised by the UCD Earth Institute, and centred around Dr. Hauber’s research on Martian climate change – both long and short term. Dr. Hauber drew attention to certain geomorphic features which can be linked to particular stages of climate change and what they can tell us about the evolution of the Martian landscape over time. Issues of equifinality were raised with respect to geomorphic features thought to be formed by the presence of liquid water and comparisons were drawn between terrestrial and Martian surface features such as polygonal cracking and dendritic channel patterns.

Polygons on Mars

Polygons on Mars

The focus of this talk was on the hotly debated warmer, wetter Martian climate some 3.5 billion years ago and what caused the drastic transition to the cold, arid climate we observe on Mars today. Dr. Hauber explained the erratic changes in Martian obliquity throug time and described how this might link to the puzzling connection between certain landform features and liquid water. He drew attention to the instability of abundant pure liquid water under present day atmospheric conditions. The hypothesis of brine lowering the freezing point of water and making the liquid state feasible, was discussed in relation to Curiosity’s recent discovery of perchlorates in Martian soil.

The talk concluded with a discussion of future Martian missions, in particular ESA’s ExoMars mission scheduled between 2016 and 2018. in particular, it will be necessary to drill below the surface, significantly deeper than before, in order to investigate more thoroughly signs of liquid water and other bio-signatures of Martian life. This sparked an inspired discussion and question/answers session which thoroughly engaged the diverse audience present.

Overall, Dr. Hauber delivered a very captivating, enjoyable talk and we thank him for sharing his expertise on the Martian climate – both past and present, with us.

Written by Lauren Mc Keown, Ph.D candidate, Earth and Planetary Surface Process Group, Department of Geography, TCD.

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