Evolution of south seasonal cap during Martian spring: Insights from high-resolution observations by HiRISE and CRISM on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter


We use data from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera and the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) imaging spectrometer onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to follow the evolution of the appearance and composition of 12 regions of the south polar layered deposits from spring to summer time. We distinguish three steps in the evolution of the volatile layer: a decrease of both CO2 band strength and albedo until Ls = 190°?210°, a significant increase in both until Ls = 240°?260° and finally a rapid decrease until the complete defrosting of the ground. In contrast, the water ice band displays a more monotonic decrease. Analysis of HiRISE color images acquired simultaneously with CRISM data allows a plausible interpretation of this evolution. In early springtime (Ls < 200°), intense jet activity results in deposition of fans of large mineral grains and a wide spatial distribution of fine grains. The small?scale topography controls the presence and location of the jets by allowing more solar energy to be collected on slopes. Grains from the dust fans warm and sink through the CO2 layer, resulting in a bluish color at the locations of the fans around Ls = 190°?210°. As the atmosphere warms up, the surface of the ice layer sublimes and releases dust and water, resulting in its brightening. The last phase of the process consists in a progressive defrosting resulting in a patchwork of frozen and unfrozen areas.

J. Geophys. Res.
Michael Aye
Michael Aye
Research Scientist in Planetary Science

My research interests include remote sensing of surfaces, related machine learning studies and open source software.