A big team of astronomers studying Venus’ atmosphere have found a new type of heavier carbon dioxide molecule that absorbs more heat than the one more commonly found on Mars or Earth. The molecule, which is believed to have two additional neutrons in one of its oxygen atoms, allows it to absorb an additional infrared wavelength of 3.3 microns, which is what tipped the teams off to the discovery. They believe this is part of the reason Venus has such a hot atmosphere – the bigger percentage of these molecules creates an even bigger Greenhouse Gas effect than normal CO2.
As soon as I read this article comparing Mars’ cold atmosphere to Venus’ hot one in relation to the quantities of this new molecule, I immediately thought of Kim Stanley Robinson’s ‘Red Mars’. If this gas contributes more global warming than normal CO2, in the future it may be a very valuable tool if we ever came to terraform our red neighbour.