That ice could have implications for science, human exploration, and even long-term living on Mars.
Much like Earth, where thick ice deposits provide lengthy climatic records, the ice discovered on Mars could provide a window into the climatological changes the planet has undergone over millennia.
"There've been suggestions that, when there's high obliquity, the poles get heated a lot - they're tilted over and pointed more at the sun, and so that redistributes ice toward the midlatitudes", Dundas said.
"Our interpretation is that this is consolidated snow deposited in geologically recent times", Dundas said. And the ice is buried by just a few feet of Martian dirt in places, meaning it might be accessible to future crewed missions.
They found that the ice persisted through the martian summer, when any ephemeral frost would have vaporized. But of course it's hard to confirm the identity of the layers seen in radar echoes, and the instrument doesn't have the resolution to figure out how close the ice might be to the surface beyond "less than 20 meters".
"If the conclusions of the paper are correct", he said, "you're looking at something that's nearly pure ice".
Banding and subtly varying shades of blue suggest that the slabs of ice are stacked.
Scientists have been making claims over finding signs of life on Mars for quite some time now. "It's the only reasonable explanation", she says.
While there are some craters on Mars indicating the presence of past water bodies, there are relatively few, causing the scientists to hypothesize the ice formation occurred recently in geologic terms.
"That saved record would be of outrageous significance to backpedal to", G. Scott Hubbard, a space researcher at Stanford University, enlightens Science in a different article concerning the exploration. Water is a crucial resource for astronauts, because it could be combined with carbon dioxide, the main ingredient in Mars's atmosphere, to create oxygen to breathe and methane, a rocket propellant. "Our research may be useful information but it will be up to them to determine how to use it".
The cliffs were all found at latitudes about 55° north or south - discouraging latitudes for a solar-powered human base, according to the team. "What's the cutoff point?" he asks.