What happened to Mars’ surface water?

An international study co-led by Brendan Dyck, SFU researcher in the Department of Earth Sciences, suggests that a fair amount of surface water on Mars was absorbed into the crust of the planet. This new data combines with existing knowledge of the sun evaporating some of the surface water on Mars to help explain why the planet’s crust is now dry.

Researchers reached this conclusion through comparisons between the crust of the Earth and the crust of Mars, specifically looking at the volume of water that can be held by the minerals that make up Mars’ crust. It was found that the crust of Mars can hold more than twice the volume of water than Earth’s crust. The researchers estimate that “approximately 300 meters of surface water on Mars could have been absorbed into its crust and is now locked-up in microscopic mineral structures,” leaving the surface of the planet dried out.

With regards to possible life on Mars, “It would be very difficult to sustain life as we know it on Mars even if surface water existed on the planet for a couple million years . . . water would have to exist for billions of years before the evolution of complex multi-cellular life could take place,” says Dyck.


A bitumen spill from Kinder Morgan pipeline would harm BC salmon

A bitumen spill from the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline may prove fatal to migrating and spawning salmon flowing through the rivers of BC, say researchers from the University of Guelph, partnering with SFU and UBC.

Bitumen, often found in asphalt, is a petroleum containing carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, sulphur, and heavy metals. It doesn’t pour like other forms of petroleum and is said to have a consistency of cold molasses. It is one of the products that flows from Alberta to BC through the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline.

Sarah Alderman, a researcher from the University of Guelph, says that exposure to bitumen can damage salmon’s organs and limit their abilities to migrate and spawn: “We’re seeing changes from molecules up to what the organ actually looks like. All of this is affecting how they can actually swim.”

Experiments done using small doses of bitumen — significantly less than a spill would produce — showed negative effects on a salmon’s health and swimming capacities. The potential negative effects of a bitumen spill are compounded by the fact that bitumen doesn’t float on the surface of the water like oil does, but instead sinks, making it more difficult to control and clean up.