Christopher P. McKay

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We have developed a radiative-convective model of the thermal structure of Titan's atmosphere. The model computes the solar and infrared radiation in a series of spectral intervals with vertical resolution. Sources of opacity in the visible and near infrared include stratospheric haze particles, methane cloud particles, and gaseous methane; sources of(More)
Metabolic activity was measured in the laboratory at temperatures between 5 and -20 degrees C on the basis of incorporation of (14)C-labeled acetate into lipids by samples of a natural population of bacteria from Siberian permafrost (permanently frozen soil). Incorporation followed a sigmoidal pattern similar to growth curves. At all temperatures, the log(More)
In the driest parts of the Atacama Desert there are no visible life forms on soil or rock surfaces. The soil in this region contains only minute traces of bacteria distributed in patches, and conditions are too dry for cyanobacteria that live under translucent stones. Here we show that halite evaporite rocks from the driest part of the Atacama Desert are(More)
The average air temperature at the Earth's surface has increased by 0.06 degrees C per decade during the 20th century, and by 0.19 degrees C per decade from 1979 to 1998. Climate models generally predict amplified warming in polar regions, as observed in Antarctica's peninsula region over the second half of the 20th century. Although previous reports(More)
Data from ice 3590 meters below Vostok Station indicate that the ice was accreted from liquid water associated with Lake Vostok. Microbes were observed at concentrations ranging from 2.8 x 10(3) to 3.6 x 10(4) cells per milliliter; no biological incorporation of selected organic substrates or bicarbonate was detected. Bacterial 16S ribosomal DNA genes(More)
Temperature contrasts between warm tropics and cool high latitudes depends on how efficiently heat is transported by the atmosphere (and oceans) from the tropics. This heat transport is generally assumed to be proportional to atmospheric pressure, but we show with a simple model that this prediction fails by orders of magnitude for Mars and Titan. However,(More)
The permanent ice covers of Antarctic lakes in the McMurdo Dry Valleys develop liquid water inclusions in response to solar heating of internal aeolian-derived sediments. The ice sediment particles serve as nutrient (inorganic and organic)-enriched microzones for the establishment of a physiologically and ecologically complex microbial consortium capable of(More)
The occurrence of hypolithic cyanobacteria colonizing translucent stones was quantified along the aridity gradient in the Atacama Desert in Chile, from less arid areas to the hyperarid core where photosynthetic life and thus primary production reach their limits. As mean rainfall declines from 21 to ≤2 mm year−1, the abundance of hypolithic cyanobacteria(More)
The Viking missions showed the martian soil to be lifeless and depleted in organic material and indicated the presence of one or more reactive oxidants. Here we report the presence of Mars-like soils in the extreme arid region of the Atacama Desert. Samples from this region had organic species only at trace levels and extremely low levels of culturable(More)
A radiative transfer model is used to quantitatively investigate aspects of the martian ultraviolet radiation environment, past and present. Biological action spectra for DNA inactivation and chloroplast (photosystem) inhibition are used to estimate biologically effective irradiances for the martian surface under cloudless skies. Over time Mars has probably(More)