The thermal inertia of Mars from the Mars Global Surveyor Thermal Emission Spectrometer


  • Bruce M. Jakosky,

  • Michael T. Mellon,

  • Hugh H. Kieffer,

  • Philip R. Christensen,

  • E. Stacy Varnes,

  • Steven W. Lee


We have used Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) Thermal Emission Spectrometer thermal emission measurements to derive the thermal inertia of the Martian surface at the ∼100-km spatial scale. We have validated the use of nighttime-only measurements to derive thermal inertia as well as the use of a single wavelength band versus bolometric thermal emission measurements. We have also reanalyzed the Viking Infrared Thermal Mapper data set in a similar manner in order to allow a direct comparison between the two. Within the uncertainties of the fit of the data to the model, and the uncertainties inherent in the model, the thermal inertia has not changed substantially in the 21 years between the Viking and the MGS measurements. Although some differences are seen, they are most likely due to changes in albedo during the intervening years or to residual effects of airborne dust that are not fully accounted for in the thermal models. The thermal inertia values that we derive, between about 24 and 800 J m−2 s−1/2 K−1, are thought to better represent the actual thermal inertia of the Martian surface than previous estimates.