Background levels of methane in Mars' atmosphere show strong seasonal variations

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


  • Christopher R. Webster
  • Paul R. Mahaffy
  • Sushil K. Atreya
  • John E. Moores
  • Gregory J. Flesch
  • Charles Malespin
  • Christopher P. McKay
  • German Martinez
  • Christina L. Smith
  • Javier Martin-Torres
  • Javier Gomez-Elvira
  • Maria Paz Zorzano
  • Michael H. Wong
  • Melissa G. Trainer
  • Andrew Steele
  • Doug Archer
  • Brad Sutter
  • Patrice J. Coll
  • Caroline Freissinet
  • Pierre Yves Meslin
  • Raina V. Gough
  • Christopher H. House
  • Alexander Pavlov
  • Jennifer L. Eigenbrode
  • Daniel P. Glavin
  • John C. Pearson
  • Didier Keymeulen
  • Lance E. Christensen
  • Susanne P. Schwenzer
  • Rafael Navarro-Gonzalez
  • Jorge Pla-García
  • Scot C.R. Rafkin
  • Álvaro Vicente-Retortillo
  • Daniel Viudez-Moreiras
  • Michael D. Smith
  • Ari Matti Harri
  • Maria Genzer
  • Donald M. Hassler
  • Mark Lemmon
  • Joy Crisp
  • Stanley P. Sander
  • Richard W. Zurek
  • Ashwin R. Vasavada

Research units

  • Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology
  • NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
  • University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  • York University Toronto
  • NASA Ames Research Center
  • Luleå University of Technology
  • CSIC
  • Carnegie Institution of Washington
  • NASA Johnson Space Center
  • Laboratoire Interuniversitaire des Systèmes Atmosphériques
  • Sorbonne Université
  • Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planetologie
  • University of Colorado Boulder
  • Pennsylvania State University
  • Open University Milton Keynes
  • Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico
  • Space Science Institute
  • Southwest Research Institute
  • Finnish Meteorological Institute
  • Texas A and M University


Variable levels of methane in the martian atmosphere have eluded explanation partly because the measurements are not repeatable in time or location.We report in situ measurements at Gale crater made over a 5-year period by the Tunable Laser Spectrometer on the Curiosity rover.The background levels of methane have a mean value 0.41 ± 0.16 parts per billion by volume (ppbv) (95% confidence interval) and exhibit a strong, repeatable seasonal variation (0.24 to 0.65 ppbv).This variation is greater than that predicted from either ultraviolet degradation of impact-delivered organics on the surface or from the annual surface pressure cycle.The large seasonal variation in the background and occurrences of higher temporary spikes (∼7 ppbv) are consistent with small localized sources of methane released from martian surface or subsurface reservoirs.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1093-1096
Number of pages4
Issue number6393
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jun 2018
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

ID: 31557878