Do the polar layered deposits on Mars reflect orbital control or stochastic variability? It is first useful to determine whether an orbital signal would be detected, even if present. An estimate of the uncertainty in the time-depth relationship of the polar stratigraphy shows that nonlinearities in this relationship and noise in the signal will hamper or preclude detection of orbital forcing, even if layer composition is directly proportional to insolation. Indeed, stratigraphic sections of the north polar layered deposits reconstructed from spacecraft images yield no clear evidence of orbital control and are largely consistent with an autoregressive, stochastic formation process. There is, however, a broad rise in spectral power centered on a wavelength of roughly 1.6 m that appears in many of the stratigraphic sections. This bedding may record a time scale associated with processes internal to Mars' climate system, perhaps related to dust storms. Alternatively, if formed in response to variations in Mars' obliquity or orbital precession, the 1.6 m bedding implies that the ~1-km-thick upper north polar layered deposits formed over 30–70 Myr.

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