Earth is not the only planet affected by climate change and global warming — at least according to a new study. Scientists have known for some time that Mars has ice, but this study shows the red planet is still emerging from its last ice age, and the changes it’s seeing could help researchers better understand climate change on Earth, the authors say.
In the past, models have predicted that Mars had several rounds of ice ages, but there was little physical evidence to prove this. The study, published this week in Science magazine, is the first to plot ice deposits on the planet’s north and south poles, confirming that Mars is emerging from an ice age that ended 400,000 years ago, the Verge reported. It also shows that the amount of ice on Mars’ poles was so big it could have covered the whole planet in a 2-foot-thick layer.
Scientists used the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, a NASA spacecraft, to analyze radar images of the polar ice caps. When they tracked erosion and wind effects on the planet, researchers were able to learn how the ice advanced and receded over time, which gave them a timeline for the ice age.
Because Mars is the closest planet to Earth, it can give researchers a parallel to look at a similar atmosphere without the effects of burned fossil fuels. There are a number of differences in how Mars has experienced climate change, but scientists can now see the ice age is continuing to affect the planet’s climate in ways that can be compared with Earth. With lots of talk about life on Mars and potentially sending people there one day, scientists think it’s a good idea to be able to more closely study the water and weather on the red planet.