Potential effects of atmospheric collapse on Martian heat flow and application to the InSight measurements


Attree N, Patel N, Hagermann A, Grott M, Spohn T & Siegler M (2020) Potential effects of atmospheric collapse on Martian heat flow and application to the InSight measurements. Planetary and Space Science, 180, Art. No.: 104778.

Heat flow is an important constraint on planetary formation and evolution. It has been suggested that Martian obliquity cycles might cause periodic collapses in atmospheric pressure, leading to corresponding decreases in regolith thermal conductivity (which is controlled by gas in the pore spaces). Geothermal heat would then build up in the subsurface, potentially affecting present–day heat flow — and thus the measurements made by a heat–flow probe such as the InSight HP3 instrument. To gauge the order of magnitude of this effect, we model the diffusion of a putative heat pulse caused by thermal conductivity changes with a simple numerical scheme and compare it to the heat–flow perturbations caused by other effects. We find that an atmospheric collapse to 300 Pa in the last 40 kyr would lead to a present–day heat flow that is up to larger than the average geothermal background. Considering the InSight mission with expected error bars on the HP3 measurement, this perturbation would only be significant in the best-case scenario of full instrument deployment, completed measurement campaign, and a well–modelled surface configuration. The prospects for detecting long-term climate perturbations via spacecraft heat–flow experiments remain challenging.

Space and Planetary Science; Astronomy and Astrophysics; Mars; Mars Interior; Mars Climate;

Planetary and Space Science: Volume 180

FundersUK Space Agency and Science and Technology Facilities Council
Publication date31/01/2020
Publication date online22/10/2019
Date accepted by journal10/10/2019
PublisherElsevier BV