Testing the early Mars H2-CO2 greenhouse hypothesis with a 1-D photochemical model

Natasha Batalha, Shawn D. Domagal-Goldman, Ramses Ramirez, James F. Kasting

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


A recent study by Ramirez et al. (Ramirez, R.M. et al. [2014]. Nat. Geosci. 7(1), 59-63. <http://www.nature.com/doifinder/10.1038/ngeo2000> (accessed 16.09.14)) demonstrated that an atmosphere with 1.3-4bar of CO2 and H2O, in addition to 5-20% H2, could have raised the mean annual and global surface temperature of early Mars above the freezing point of water. Such warm temperatures appear necessary to generate the rainfall (or snowfall) amounts required to carve the ancient martian valleys. Here, we use our best estimates for early martian outgassing rates, along with a 1-D photochemical model, to assess the conversion efficiency of CO, CH4, and H2S to CO2, SO2, and H2. Our outgassing estimates assume that Mars was actively recycling volatiles between its crust and interior, as Earth does today. H2 production from serpentinization and deposition of banded iron-formations is also considered. Under these assumptions, maintaining an H2 concentration of ~1-2% by volume is achievable, but reaching 5% H2 requires additional H2 sources or a slowing of the hydrogen escape rate below the diffusion limit. If the early martian atmosphere was indeed H2-rich, we might be able to see evidence of this in the rock record. The hypothesis proposed here is consistent with new data from the Curiosity Rover, which show evidence for a long-lived lake in Gale Crater near Mt. Sharp. It is also consistent with measured oxygen fugacities of martian meteorites, which show evidence for progressive mantle oxidation over time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)337-349
Number of pages13
StatePublished - Sep 5 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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