Do ice caves exist on Mars?

K. E. Williams
Christopher P. McKay
O. B. Toon


We have developed a numerical model for assessing the lifetime of ice deposits in martian caves that are open to the atmosphere. Our model results and sensitivity tests indicate that cave ice would be stable over significant portions of the surface of Mars. Ice caves on Earth commonly occur in lava tubes, and Mars has been significantly resurfaced by volcanic activity during its history, including the two main volcanic provinces, the Tharsis and Elysium rises. These areas, known or suspected of having subsurface caves and related voids are among the most favorable regions for the occurrence of ice stability. The martian ice cave model predicts regions which, if caves occur, would potentially be areas of astrobiological importance as well as possible water sources for future human missions to Mars.