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Monday, December 10, 2001

Warming Planet?

Warming Planet?
Warming Planet?
Credit: NASA / MOLA Science Team / O. de Goursac / A. Lark
(AP) - Vast fields of carbon dioxide ice are eroding from the poles of Mars, suggesting that the climate of the Red Planet is warming and the atmosphere is becoming slightly more dense. Experts say that over time such changes could allow water to return to the Martian surface and turn the frigid planet into a "shirt-sleeve environment." Michael A. Caplinger, a scientist with Malin Space Science Systems, said that if the rate of carbon dioxide erosion from the Mars poles continues for thousands of years, "then it could profoundly amend the climate of Mars." "It is eroding away at a rapid pace and is going to continue to do that," said Caplinger. "This is not a seasonal change." He said the photos suggest that the polar caps are dense slabs of frozen carbon dioxide that may have been deposited over centuries, much like the way seasonal snow on Earth accumulates to form a glacier. "This stuff has been there for quite a while," he said. "It is packed down and very smooth. We don't see evidence that it is blowing around or drifting."

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- posted by Alex @ 22:46 EST