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Aeolian abrasion of rocks as a mechanism to produce methane in the Martian atmosphere.

Safi, E. and Telling, J. and Parnell, J. and Chojnacki, M. and Patel, M. R. and Realff, J. and Blamey, N. J. F. and Payler, S. and Cockell, C. S. and Davies, L. and Boothroyd, I. M. and Worrall, F. and Wadham, J. L. (2019) 'Aeolian abrasion of rocks as a mechanism to produce methane in the Martian atmosphere.', Scientific reports, 9 (1). p. 8229.

Abstract

Seasonal changes in methane background levels and methane spikes have been detected in situ a metre above the Martian surface, and larger methane plumes detected via ground-based remote sensing, however their origin have not yet been adequately explained. Proposed methane sources include the UV irradiation of meteoritic-derived organic matter, hydrothermal reactions with olivine, organic breakdown via meteoroid impact, release from gas hydrates, biological production, or the release of methane from fluid inclusions in basalt during aeolian erosion. Here we quantify for the first time the potential importance of aeolian abrasion as a mechanism for releasing trapped methane from within rocks, by coupling estimates of present day surface wind abrasion with the methane contents of a variety of Martian meteorites, analogue terrestrial basalts and analogue terrestrial sedimentary rocks. We demonstrate that the abrasion of basalt under present day Martian rates of aeolian erosion is highly unlikely to produce detectable changes in methane concentrations in the atmosphere. We further show that, although there is a greater potential for methane production from the aeolian abrasion of certain sedimentary rocks, to produce the magnitude of methane concentrations analysed by the Curiosity rover they would have to contain methane in similar concentrations as economic reserved of biogenic/thermogenic deposits on Earth. Therefore we suggest that aeolian abrasion is an unlikely origin of the methane detected in the Martian atmosphere, and that other methane sources are required.

Item Type:Article
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Status:Peer-reviewed
Publisher Web site:https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-44616-2
Publisher statement:This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.
Date accepted:16 May 2019
Date deposited:19 June 2019
Date of first online publication:03 June 2019
Date first made open access:19 June 2019

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