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Color coding in this map of a far-southern site on Mars indicates the change in nighttime ground-surface temperature between summer and fall. This site, like most of high-latitude Mars, has water ice mixed with soil near the surface. The ice is probably in a rock-hard frozen layer beneath a few centimeters or inches of looser, dry soil. The amount of temperature change at the surface likely corresponds to how close to the surface the icy material lies. The dense, icy layer retains heat better than the looser soil above it, so where the icy layer is closer to the surface, the surface temperature changes more slowly than where the icy layer is buried deeper. On the map, areas of the surface that cooled more slowly between summer and autumn (interpreted as having the ice closer to the surface) are coded blue and green. Areas that cooled more quickly (interpreted as having more distance to the ice) are coded red and yellow. The depth to the top of the icy layer estimated from these observations suggests that in some areas, but not others, water is being exchanged by diffusion between atmospheric water vapor and subsurface water ice. Differences in what type of material lies above the ice appear to affect the depth to the ice. The area in this image with the greatest seasonal change in surface temperature corresponds to an area of sand dunes. This map and its interpretation are in a May 3, 2007, report in the journal
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