Global warming could be heating Mars four times faster than Earth due to a mutually reinforcing interplay of wind-swept dust and changes in reflected heat from the Sun, according to a study released Wednesday.
Scientists have long observed a correlation on Mars between its fluctuating temperatures — which range from -87 C to – 5 C (-125 F to 23 F) depending on the season and the location — and the darkening or lightening of swathes of the planet’s surface.
The explanation is in the dirt.
Glistening Martian dust lying on the ground reflects the Sun’s light — and its heat — back into space, a phenomenon called albedo.
But when this reddish dust is churned up by violent winds, the storm-ravaged surface loses its reflective qualities and more of the Sun’s heat is absorbed into the atmosphere, causing temperatures to rise.
The study, published on Thursday by the British journal Nature, shows for the first time that these variations not only result from the storms but help cause them too.
It also suggests that short-term climate change is currently occurring on Mars and at a much faster rate than on Earth.
We’ve got it all – violent storms, rapid temperature change, receding polar ice. All we need is to pinpoint the source of all the martian CO2 emissions and send an emergency mission to start a carbon offset program, and we’re well on the way to saving the Red Planet as well as our own from the horrors of climate change!
Naturally, the article contains this caveat:
For Earth, global warming is mainly associated with human activities — notably the burning of fossil fuels — that release carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere, trapping more of the Sun’s heat.
Once again, I’m left with questions about this whole thing. We know that the average global temperature on Earth has been creeping upward over the last little bit. We also know that climate change seems to be occurring on other planetary bodies in the Solar System (Jupiter, Saturn’s moon Triton, Mars, and even Pluto, for example). We also know that average temperatures on Earth have been much higher (there’s a reason that Greenland is called Greenland) and much lower (there’s a reason that Greenland was abandoned by its inhabitants) over the course of recorded history. Given these facts, why is it that Earth seems to be the only planet about which scientists have reached the untouchable conclusion that the climate change process isn’t natural?