Laboratory experiments and models of diffusive emplacement of ground ice on Mars
Article first published online: 23 JAN 2009
Copyright 2009 by the American Geophysical Union.
Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets (1991–2012)
Volume 114, Issue E1, January 2009
How to Cite
2009), Laboratory experiments and models of diffusive emplacement of ground ice on Mars, J. Geophys. Res., 114, E01002, doi:10.1029/2008JE003149., , and (
- Issue published online: 23 JAN 2009
- Article first published online: 23 JAN 2009
- Manuscript Accepted: 4 NOV 2008
- Manuscript Revised: 24 JUL 2008
- Manuscript Received: 20 MAR 2008
 Experiments demonstrate for the first time the deposition of subsurface ice directly from atmospheric water vapor under Mars surface conditions. Deposition occurs at pressures below the triple point of water and therefore in the absence of a bulk liquid phase. Significant quantities of ice are observed to deposit in porous medium interstices; the maximum filling fraction observed in our experiments is ∼90%, but the evidence is consistent with ice density in pore spaces asymptotically approaching 100% filling. The micromorphology of the deposited ice reveals several noteworthy characteristics including preferential early deposition at grain contact points, complete pore filling between some grains, and captured atmospheric gas bubbles. The boundary between ice-bearing and ice-free soil, the “ice table,” is a sharp interface, consistent with theoretical investigations of subsurface ice dynamics. Changes of surface radiative properties are shown to affect ice table morphology through their modulation of the local temperature profile. Accumulation of ice is shown to reduce the diffusive flux and thus reduce the rate of further ice deposition. Numerical models of the experiments based on diffusion physics are able to reproduce experimental ice contents if the parameterization of growth rate reduction has expected contributions in addition to reduced porosity. Several phenomena related to the evolution of subsurface ice are discussed in light of these results, and interpretations are given for a range of potential observations being made by the Phoenix Scout Lander.