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R.C. Quinn (SETI Institute), A.P. Zent, C.P. McKay, R.M. Haberle (NASA Ames)
Viking Lander images revealed the existence of water ice (frost) on the Martian surface for extended periods of time during the Martian winter at the VL2 landing site. At the VL2 landing site, and most other locations on Mars, it is expected that water-frost films would completely sublime before liquefaction could occur. While this maybe true for liquefaction of the bulk ice, this process does not necessarily preclude the formation of thin liquid water films at the ice-soil interface in all cases. The formation of such films, even if transient, could play a major role in chemical evolution and weathering on Mars. We present experimentally determined conductance measurements of sublimative loss rates for water ice under Mars-like conditions in the temperature and pressure regimes where thin liquid films exist at the ice-soil interface. A general circulation model is then used to determine the duration and locations where these liquid water films can exist on Mars.