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Here, we report observations made using the SPICAM (Spectroscopy for the Investigation of the Characteristics of the Atmosphere of Mars) instrument onboard Mars Express that provide evidence of the frequent presence of water vapor in excess of saturation, by an amount far surpassing that encountered in Earth’s atmosphere.
This result contradicts the widespread assumption that atmospheric water on Mars cannot exist in a supersaturated state, directly affecting our long-term representation of water transport, accumulation, escape, and chemistry on a global scale.
The new results, based on SPICAM data obtained during the northern spring and summer, indicate that the vertical distribution of water vapor in the Martian atmosphere is very different from previous assumptions.
An international team led by Luca Maltagliati of the Laboratoire Atmosphères, Milieux, Observations Spatiales (LATMOS) in Guyancourt, France, describe SPICAM observations at infrared wavelengths that for the first time provide evidence for the existence of supersaturated water vapor on Mars.
Extremely high levels of supersaturation were found on Mars, up to 10 times greater than those found on Earth.
Clearly, there is much more water vapor in the upper Martian atmosphere than anyone ever imagined. It seems that previous models have greatly underestimated the quantities of water vapour at heights of 20–50 km, with as much as 10 to 100 times more water than expected at this altitude.
Originally posted by spikey
The implication is that aerosols and 'condensation nuclei' will cause the Martian water vapour to condense, and precipitate just as it does here on Earth...does this suggest that it RAINS H2O on Mars?!
This finding has vast implications, and has to be regarded as a prime reason to rethink almost everything we thought we knew about the Martian climate.
It also has other implications regarding life, past or present of course.
"The data suggest that much more water vapor is being carried high enough in the atmosphere to be affected by photodissociation," added Franck Montmessin, also from LATMOS, who is the Principal Investigator for SPICAM and a co-author of the paper.
"Solar radiation can split the water molecules into oxygen and hydrogen atoms, which can then escape into space. This has implications for the rate at which water has been lost from the planet and for the long-term evolution of the Martian surface and atmosphere."