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Long-term drying of Mars by sequestration of ocean-scale volumes of water in the crust

Scheller, E. L. and Ehlmann, B. L. and Hu, Renyu and Adams, D. J. and Yung, Y. L. (2021) Long-term drying of Mars by sequestration of ocean-scale volumes of water in the crust. Science, 372 (6537). pp. 56-62. ISSN 0036-8075. PMCID PMC8370096. doi:10.1126/science.abc7717.

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Geological evidence shows that ancient Mars had large volumes of liquid water. Models of past hydrogen escape to space, calibrated with observations of the current escape rate, cannot explain the present-day deuterium-to-hydrogen isotope ratio (D/H). We simulated volcanic degassing, atmospheric escape, and crustal hydration on Mars, incorporating observational constraints from spacecraft, rovers, and meteorites. We found that ancient water volumes equivalent to a 100 to 1500 meter global layer are simultaneously compatible with the geological evidence, loss rate estimates, and D/H measurements. In our model, the volume of water participating in the hydrological cycle decreased by 40 to 95% over the Noachian period (~3.7 billion to 4.1 billion years ago), reaching present-day values by ~3.0 billion years ago. Between 30 and 99% of martian water was sequestered through crustal hydration, demonstrating that irreversible chemical weathering can increase the aridity of terrestrial planets.

Item Type:Article
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URLURL TypeDescription Material D/H model code, input and output files, the KINETICS data files ItemSAM data from the Planetary Data System CentralArticle Reprint - Free Access text - Free Access CentralArticle
Scheller, E. L.0000-0002-9981-5802
Ehlmann, B. L.0000-0002-2745-3240
Hu, Renyu0000-0003-2215-8485
Adams, D. J.0000-0001-9897-9680
Yung, Y. L.0000-0002-4263-2562
Additional Information:© 2021, American Association for the Advancement of Science. Received 11 June 2020; accepted 4 March 2021. Published online 16 March 2021. We thank A. Hoffmann, P. Mahaffey, C. Webster, H. Franz, J. Stern, D. Breuer, J. Dickson, J. Eiler, J. Grotzinger, Y. Liu, E. Stolper, and the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) Science Team for discussion. We thank B. Jakosky and two anonymous referees for suggestions that strengthened the manuscript. R.H., B.L.E., and Y.L.Y. were supported by a NASA Habitable Worlds grant (NNN13D466T, later changed to 80NM0018F0612). Part of this work was carried out at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (grant 80NM0018D0004). E.L.S. was supported by a NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship (NESSF) (grant 80NSSC18K1255). D.J.A. was supported by a Future Investigator in NASA Earth and Space Science and Technology (FINESST) fellowship (grant 80NSSC19K1548). Author contributions: E.L.S. drafted the manuscript, developed the code, and performed the simulations for the D/H model. B.L.E. devised the original idea of an integrated approach to a water budget and D/H model. E.L.S., B.L.E., and R.H. developed the water budget and D/H model concept. E.L.S., B.L.E., R.H., D.J.A., and Y.L.Y. adapted the KINETICS model input parameters for this study. D.J.A. implemented the KINETICS adaption, and D.J.A. and Y.L.Y. analyzed the KINETICS output. All authors participated in the writing and editing of the manuscript. Competing interests: We declare no competing interests. Data and materials availability: The equations used for the D/H model and our adopted parameter ranges are given in the supplementary materials. The Mars D/H model code, input and output files, the KINETICS data files used for fig. S3, and visualization scripts are all available in the CaltechDATA repository at (48). The KINETICS software was developed by a combination of authors (D.J.A. and Y.L.Y.) and a large number of nonauthors (25, 26), so we do not have permission to distribute the source code. An executable version with adjustable input parameters, to reproduce all simulation scenarios in this paper, is available at the same DOI, 10.22002/D1.1879. The SAM data were taken from the Planetary Data System at; we used level 2 data for samples eid25094, eid25123, eid25173, eid25413, eid25484, eid25515, and eid25538 (5).
Funding AgencyGrant Number
NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship80NSSC18K1255
NASA Earth and Space Science and Technology Fellowship80NSSC19K1548
Issue or Number:6537
PubMed Central ID:PMC8370096
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20210317-101255646
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Official Citation:Long-term drying of Mars by sequestration of ocean-scale volumes of water in the crust. E. L. Scheller et al., Science 372 (6537), 56-62; DOI: 10.1126/science.abc7717.
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:108469
Deposited By: Katherine Johnson
Deposited On:17 Mar 2021 17:49
Last Modified:09 Feb 2022 00:56

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