Hot oxygen escape from Mars: Simple scaling with solar EUV irradiance

T. E. Cravens, A. Rahmati, Jane L. Fox, R. Lillis, S. Bougher, J. Luhmann, S. Sakai, J. Deighan, Yuni Lee, M. Combi, B. Jakosky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


The evolution of the atmosphere of Mars and the loss of volatiles over the lifetime of the solar system is a key topic in planetary science. An important loss process for atomic species, such as oxygen, is ionospheric photochemical escape. Dissociative recombination of O2 + ions (the major ion species) produces fast oxygen atoms, some of which can escape from the planet. Many theoretical hot O models have been constructed over the years, although a number of uncertainties are present in these models, particularly concerning the elastic cross sections of O atoms with CO2. Recently, the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution mission has been rapidly improving our understanding of the upper atmosphere and ionosphere of Mars and its interaction with the external environment (e.g., solar wind), allowing a new assessment of this important loss process. The purpose of the current paper is to take a simple analytical approach to the oxygen escape problem in order to (1) study the role that variations in solar radiation or solar wind fluxes could have on escape in a transparent fashion and (2) isolate the effects of uncertainties in oxygen cross sections on the derived oxygen escape rates. In agreement with several more elaborate numerical models, we find that the escape flux is directly proportional to the incident solar extreme ultraviolet irradiance and is inversely proportional to the backscatter elastic cross section. The amount of O lost due to ion transport in the topside ionosphere is found to be about 5–10% of the total.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1102-1116
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Jan 1
Externally publishedYes


  • Mars oxygen escape
  • Mars photochemistry
  • atmospheric loss
  • ionosphere of Mars

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Geophysics


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