Temperature and humidity monitoring to identify ideal periods for liquefaction on Earth and Mars – data from the High Andes

Akos Kereszturi, Bernadett Pal, Akos Gyenis


During an almost two week-long field campaign in the Atacama Desert high altitude region of Ojos del Salado volcano, temperature (T) and relative humidity (RH) values were monitored on the surface and <1–5 cm sized rocks, focusing on the night-time values. The aim was to identify and evaluate potential temporal characteristics of daily T and RH changes, searching for ideal periods for deliquescence that has recently been proposed for Mars. Although the atmospheric pressure on Mars is much lower than on Earth, and the atmosphere is drier in general, the huge daily temperature fluctuation there could produce elevated humidity values at night-time; this aspect has thus been analysed on Earth at a desert location, where because of the high elevation night-time cooling is very strong, just like on Mars. Different nearby surface locations showed the same temporal T/RH characteristics, but evident variations were observed between different days. Strong fluctuations could be observed on 10–20 minute long temporal scales, that might influence the deliquescence process, and should be accounted for in future missions aiming to analyse this process on Mars. Night-time periods were favourable for deliquescence. Among the modelled Mars-relevant salts [CaCl2, Ca(ClO4)2, Mg(ClO4)2, NaCl] the longest durations of possible deliquescence were for CaCl2, Ca(ClO4)2 and Mg(ClO4)2, ~7–12 hours for one day. The duration for deliquescence showed some increase along with the rising elevation, due to the decreasing night-time temperature. Thus despite the low humidity on Mars, the cold nights may cause elevated RH towards deliquescence. The Atacama Desert locations analysed are a useful analogue of the deliquescence process on Mars. Fluctuation in RH was observed in night-time, suggesting that similar variability might be present on Mars, and that should be considered in the future, including in evaluating how fast the microscopic liquid formation progresses. Night-time slope winds expected on Mars might have a strong impact on the local T/RH conditions. A more detailed analysis in the future should focus on identifying and separating regions with and without much of the expected night-time fluctuation.


deliquescence, humidity, hogh mountain, Mars, Mars analogue

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