Billions of years ago, when Mars was a frozen ball of ice, massive plumes of methane might have caused mysterious warm spells that let liquid water flow, a new study says. The research could help scientists understand how and when conditions on Mars were suitable for life.

These transient bouts of global warming may be connected to Mars’ wobbly axis, according to a new model of young Mars’ climate published today in the journal Nature Geosciences. The planet’s shifting tilt exposed more of its surface to the Sun’s rays, thawing subsurface reservoirs of frozen methane, the study suggests. The methane gas then escaped into the atmosphere and mixed with carbon dioxide, another powerful heat-trapping greenhouse gas — triggering spurts of…

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