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Methane released into the atmosphere can combust in electric storms to produce more water vapour.


The heat of formation lost to the local environment is 130KJ/ mol. This heat generation can go towards raising the temperature of a local environment to those required for optimal growth and reproduction. However in cold conditions, methanogens are known to survive in a dormant stage where only the minimal processes such as gene repair can take place.


Given warm conditions, methanogens can double their numbers within three days and this process takes place by one of four kinds of asexual divisions..

1) Binary division

2) Budding

3) Fragmentation

4) Constriction


So it can be seen that methanogens, given adequate conditions, can multiply exponentially and the quantities of water produced by them also increases exponentially. Once formed, water is a very stable compound.


A Different Atmosphere


If life had become established on Mars like it had on Earth by that stage, it would have a different atmosphere from the one it has now. The atmosphere would have much more oxygen  - a bi-product of photosynthesis.


There would be more water vapour too, given off by plant life and providing a green-house gas effect which would moderate the swing from warm daylight hours to plunging night time temperatures.


Nitrogen levels in Mars’s atmosphere would be much higher too. Denitrifying bacteria on early Earth have given rise to the high percentage of nitrogen in the Earth’s atmosphere. Anammox, an ancient type of bacteria, anaerobically oxidises ammonium with nitrite to gaseous nitrogen (Nature 2003).


The following is a comparison of the atmospheres on Mars and Earth


                               Mars               Earth              


Carbon dioxide         95.32 %                              0.039 %         

Nitrogen                    2.7   %                            78.08 %          

Argon                       1.6    %                             0.934%          

Oxygen                     0.13  %                             20.946 %      

Carbon monoxide       0.077%                             0.0001%

Water vapour             0.03  %                              0.4 - 4%

Krypton                    300 ppb                           1100 ppb



In this comparison we need to consider that the atmospheric pressure on Mars is 0.7 % of Earth’s. Carbon dioxide levels on Earth have diminished greatly from the level on Mars. This is due to carbon capture into biomass and carbonaceous sedimentary rocks such as limestones and chalk - which are deposits of the shells of tiny organisms.


Nitrogen levels have soared above the levels on Mars - possibly entirely due to the activity of denitrifying bacteria.


Oxygen levels have also soared on Earth as a result of the process of photosynthesis in many forms of life. These two component gases have been responsible for the great increase in atmospheric pressure seen on Earth over that on Mars.


The noble gases such as argon and krypton have maintained similar levels on both planets and this is because they have not been involved in the processes of microbial life on Earth.  




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