Does martian soil release reactive halogens to the atmosphere?

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Detailed statistical examination of Cl, Br, and S distributions, in martian soil profiles at Gusev Crater and Meridiani Planum, indicates decreasing Br abundance and weakening Br-S association towards the surface. All three elements decrease towards the surface in the order Cl. <. S. <. Br. Furthermore, Br variability decouples from potential cations such as Mg at the surface relative to the subsurface. These observations support a relative loss of surficial Br compared to S and Cl, all highly mobile elements in aqueous environments. We propose that Br may have converted preferentially to gas phases (e.g., BrO), driven either by UV photolysis or by chemical oxidants. Such volatilization pathways may in turn impart a global signature on Mars by acting as controls on oxidants such as ozone and perchlorates. S/Cl mass ratios vary with depth (~4-5 in the subsurface; 1.8-3.6 on the surface) as well, with a strong correlation of S and Cl near the surface but more variable at depth, consistent with differential vertical mobility, but not volatilization of Cl. Elevated S/Cl in subsurface soil also suggests that the ratio may be higher in bulk soil - a key repository of martian geologic and climatic records - than previously thought. © 2013 Elsevier Inc.

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