Primordial Martian Climate
The existence of liquid water on the surface of Mars requires both a warmer and thicker atmosphere. Atmospheric pressure on the present day Martian surface only exceeds that of the triple point of water (6.11 hPa) in the lowest elevations; at higher elevations water can exist only in solid or vapor form (assuming pure water). Annual mean temperatures at the surface are currently less than 210 K, significantly less than what is needed to sustain liquid water. However, early in its history Mars may have had conditions more conducive to retaining liquid water at the surface.
Early Mars had a carbon dioxide atmosphere similar in thickness to present-day Earth (1000 hPa). Despite a weak early Sun, the greenhouse effect from a thick carbon dioxide atmosphere, if bolstered with small amounts of methane or insulating effects of carbon dioxide ice clouds, would have been sufficient to warm the mean surface temperature to a value above the freezing point of water. The atmosphere has since been reduced by sequestration in the ground in the form of carbonates through weathering, as well as loss to space through sputtering (an interaction with the solar wind due to the lack of a strong Martian magnetosphere).
The obliquity (axial tilt) of Mars varies considerably on geologic timescales, and has a strong impact on planetary climate conditions.
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