2008 .

(18 publications)

F. González-Galindo, F. Forget, M. Angelats I Coll, and M. A. López-Valverde. The Martian upper atmosphere. Lecture Notes and Essays in Astrophysics, 3:151-162, 2008. [ bib | ADS link ]

The most relevant aspects of the Martian atmosphere are presented in this paper, focusing on the almost unexplored upper atmosphere. We summarize the most recent observations concerning this region, as well as the numerical models used to its study. Special attention is devoted to the only ground-to-exosphere General Circulation Model existing today for Mars, the LMD-MGCM. The model and its extension to the thermosphere are described and the strategies used for its validation are shortly discussed. Finally, we briefly present some comparisons between the results of the model and the observations by different spacecrafts.

J. L. Fastook, J. W. Head, D. R. Marchant, and F. Forget. Tropical mountain glaciers on Mars: Altitude-dependence of ice accumulation, accumulation conditions, formation times, glacier dynamics, and implications for planetary spin-axis/orbital history. Icarus, 198:305-317, 2008. [ bib | DOI | ADS link ]

Fan-shaped deposits up to 166,000 km in area are found on the northwest flanks of the huge Tharsis Montes volcanoes in the tropics of Mars. Recent spacecraft data have confirmed earlier hypotheses that these lobate deposits are glacial in origin. Increased knowledge of polar-latitude terrestrial glacial analogs in the Antarctic Dry Valleys has been used to show that the lobate deposits are the remnants of cold-based glaciers that formed in the extremely cold, hyper-arid climate of Mars. Mars atmospheric general circulation models (GCM) show that these glaciers could form during periods of high obliquity when upwelling and adiabatic cooling of moist air favor deposition of snow on the northwest flanks of the Tharsis Montes. We present a simulation of the Tharsis Montes ice sheets produced by a static accumulation pattern based on the GCM results and compare this with the nature and extent of the geologic deposits. We use the fundamental differences between the atmospheric snow accumulation environments (mass balance) on Earth and Mars, geological observations and ice-sheet models to show that two equilibrium lines should characterize ice-sheet mass balance on Mars, and that glacial accumulation should be favored on the flanks of large volcanoes, not on their summits as seen on Earth. Predicted accumulation rates from such a parameterization, together with sample spin-axis obliquity histories, are used to show that obliquity in excess of 45deg and multiple 120,000 year obliquity cycles are necessary to produce the observed deposits. Our results indicate that the formation of these deposits required multiple successive stages of advance and retreat before their full extent could be reached, and thus imply that spin-axis obliquity remained at these high values for millions of years during the Late Amazonian period of Mars history. Spin-axis obliquity is one of the main factors in the distribution and intensity of solar insolation, and thus in determining the climate history of Mars. Unfortunately, reconstruction of past climate history is inhibited by the fact that the chaotic nature of the solution makes the calculation of orbital histories unreliable prior to about 20 Ma ago. We show, however, that the geological record, combined with glacial modeling, can be used to provide insight into the nature of the spin-axis/orbital history of Mars in the Late Amazonian, and to begin to establish data points for the geologically based reconstruction of the climate and orbital history of Mars.

A. Crespin, S. Lebonnois, S. Vinatier, B. Bézard, A. Coustenis, N. A. Teanby, R. K. Achterberg, P. Rannou, and F. Hourdin. Diagnostics of Titan's stratospheric dynamics using Cassini/CIRS data and the 2-dimensional IPSL circulation model. Icarus, 197:556-571, 2008. [ bib | DOI | ADS link ]

The dynamics of Titan's stratosphere is discussed in this study, based on a comparison between observations by the CIRS instrument on board the Cassini spacecraft, and results of the 2-dimensional circulation model developed at the Institute Pierre-Simon Laplace, available at http://www.lmd.jussieu.fr/titanDbase [Rannou, P., Lebonnois, S., Hourdin, F., Luz, D., 2005. Adv. Space Res. 36, 2194-2198]. The comparison aims at both evaluating the model's capabilities and interpreting the observations concerning: (1) dynamical and thermal structure using temperature retrievals from Cassini/CIRS and the vertical profile of zonal wind at the Huygens landing site obtained by Huygens/DWE; and (2) vertical and latitudinal profiles of stratospheric gases deduced from Cassini/CIRS data. The modeled thermal structure is similar to that inferred from observations (Cassini/CIRS and Earth-based observations). However, the upper stratosphere (above 0.05 mbar) is systematically too hot in the 2D-CM, and therefore the stratopause region is not well represented. This bias may be related to the haze structure and to misrepresented radiative effects in this region, such as the cooling effect of hydrogen cyanide (HCN). The 2D-CM produces a strong atmospheric superrotation, with zonal winds reaching 200 m s -1 at high winter latitudes between 200 and 300 km altitude (0.1-1 mbar). The modeled zonal winds are in good agreement with retrieved wind fields from occultation observations, Cassini/CIRS and Huygens/DWE. Changes to the thermal structure are coupled to changes in the meridional circulation and polar vortex extension, and therefore affect chemical distributions, especially in winter polar regions. When a higher altitude haze production source is used, the resulting modeled meridional circulation is weaker and the vertical and horizontal mixing due to the polar vortex is less extended in latitude. There is an overall good agreement between modeled chemical distributions and observations in equatorial regions. The difference in observed vertical gradients of C 2H 2 and HCN may be an indicator of the relative strength of circulation and chemical loss of HCN. The negative vertical gradient of ethylene in the low stratosphere at 15deg S, cannot be modeled with simple 1-dimensional models, where a strong photochemical sink in the middle stratosphere would be necessary. It is explained here by dynamical advection from the winter pole towards the equator in the low stratosphere and by the fact that ethylene does not condense. Near the winter pole (80deg N), some compounds (C 4H 2, C 3H 4) exhibit an (interior) minimum in the observed abundance vertical profiles, whereas 2D-CM profiles are well mixed all along the atmospheric column. This minimum can be a diagnostic of the strength of the meridional circulation, and of the spatial extension of the winter polar vortex where strong descending motions are present. In the summer hemisphere, observed stratospheric abundances are uniform in latitude, whereas the model maintains a residual enrichment over the summer pole from the spring cell due to a secondary meridional overturning between 1 and 50 mbar, at latitudes south of 40-50deg S. The strength, as well as spatial and temporal extensions of this structure are a difficulty, that may be linked to possible misrepresentation of horizontally mixing processes, due to the restricted 2-dimensional nature of the model. This restriction should also be kept in mind as a possible source of other discrepancies.

M. Giuranna, D. Grassi, V. Formisano, L. Montabone, F. Forget, and L. Zasova. PFS/MEX observations of the condensing CO 2 south polar cap of Mars. Icarus, 197:386-402, 2008. [ bib | DOI | ADS link ]

The condensing CO 2 south polar cap of Mars and the mechanisms of the CO 2 ice accumulation have been studied through the analysis of spectra acquired by the Planetary Fourier Spectrometer (PFS) during the first two years of ESA's Mars Express (MEX) mission. This dataset spans more than half a martian year, from Ls330deg to Ls194deg, and includes the southern fall season which is found to be extremely important for the study of the residual south polar cap asymmetry. The cap expands symmetrically and with constant speed during the fall season. The maximum extension occurs sometime in the 80deg-90deg Ls range, when the cap edges are as low as -40deg latitude. Inside Hellas and Argyre basins, frost can be stable at lower latitudes due to the higher pressure values, causing the seasonal cap to be asymmetric. Within the seasonal range considered in this paper, the cap edge recession rate is approximately half the rate at which the cap edge expanded. The longitudinal asymmetries reduce during the cap retreat, and disappear around Ls145deg. Two different mechanisms are responsible for CO 2 ice accumulation during the fall season, especially in the 50deg-70deg Ls range. Here, CO 2 condensation in the atmosphere, and thus precipitation, is allowed exclusively in the western hemisphere, and particularly in the longitudinal corridor of the perennial cap. In the eastern hemisphere, the cap consists mainly of CO 2 frost deposits, as a consequence of direct vapor deposition. The differences in the nature of the surface ice deposits are the main cause for the residual south polar cap asymmetry. Results from selected PFS orbits have also been compared with the results provided by the martian general circulation model (GCM) of the Laboratoire de Météorologie dynamique (LMD) in Paris, with the aim of putting the observations in the context of the global circulation. This first attempt of cross-validation between PFS measurements and the LMD GCM on the one hand confirms the interpretation of the observations, and on the other hand shows that the climate modeling during the southern polar night on Mars is extremely sensitive to the dynamical forcing.

T. Cavalié, F. Billebaud, T. Encrenaz, M. Dobrijevic, J. Brillet, F. Forget, and E. Lellouch. Vertical temperature profile and mesospheric winds retrieval on Mars from CO ;millimeter observations. Comparison with general circulation model predictions. Astronomy Astrophysics, 489:795-809, 2008. [ bib | DOI | ADS link ]

Aims: We have recorded high spectral resolution spectra and derived precise atmospheric temperature profiles and wind velocities in the atmosphere of Mars. We have compared observations of the planetary mean thermal profile and mesospheric wind velocities on the disk, obtained with our millimetric observations of CO rotational lines, to predictions from the Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique (LMD) Mars General Circulation Model, as provided through the Mars Climate Database (MCD) numerical tool. <BR />Methods: We observed the atmosphere of Mars at CO(1-0) and CO(2-1) wavelengths with the IRAM 30-m antenna in June 2001 and November 2005. We retrieved the mean thermal profile of the planet from high and low spectral resolution data with an inversion method detailed here. High spectral resolution spectra were used to derive mesospheric wind velocities on the planetary disk. We also report here the use of 13CO(2-1) line core shifts to measure wind velocities at 40 km. <BR />Results: Neither the Mars Year 24 (MY24) nor the Dust Storm scenario from the Mars Climate Database (MCD) provides satisfactory fits to the 2001 and 2005 data when retrieving the thermal profiles. The Warm scenario only provides good fits for altitudes lower than 30 km. The atmosphere is warmer than predicted up to 60 km and then becomes colder. Dust loading could be the reason for this mismatch. The MCD MY24 scenario predicts a thermal inversion layer between 40 and 60 km, which is not retrieved from the high spectral resolution data. Our results are generally in agreement with other observations from 10 to 40 km in altitude, but our results obtained from the high spectral resolution spectra differ in the 40-70 km layer, where the instruments are the most sensitive. The wind velocities we retrieve from our 12CO observations confirm MCD predictions for 2001 and 2005. Velocities obtained from 13CO observations are consistent with MCD predictions in 2001, but are lower than predicted in 2005.

C. F. Wilson, S. Guerlet, P. G. J. Irwin, C. C. C. Tsang, F. W. Taylor, R. W. Carlson, P. Drossart, and G. Piccioni. Evidence for anomalous cloud particles at the poles of Venus. Journal of Geophysical Research (Planets), 113:E00B13, 2008. [ bib | DOI | ADS link ]

An analysis of near-infrared emissions on the nightside of Venus observed by the Visible and Infrared Thermal Imaging Spectrometer (VIRTIS) instrument on board Venus Express reveals anomalous cloud particles in the polar regions of Venus. These anomalous particles are found within the centers of polar vortices at both poles and are either larger or different in composition from those elsewhere in the planet. We find no persistent latitudinal variation in cloud properties at low to midlatitudes, nor do we find asymmetry between the southern and northern hemispheres. These findings arise from analysis of the relative brightness of 1.74 and 2.30 μm infrared radiation thermally emitted from the deep atmosphere of Venus. Larger cloud particles cause relatively more attenuation at 2.30 μm than at 1.74 μm, so we use a “size parameter,” m = (I 1.74mum)/(I 2.30mum)0.53, as a proxy for particle size. This methodology follows that of Carlson et al. (1993), supported by new radiative transfer modeling.

V. De La Haye, J. H. Waite, T. E. Cravens, I. P. Robertson, and S. Lebonnois. Coupled ion and neutral rotating model of Titan's upper atmosphere. Icarus, 197:110-136, 2008. [ bib | DOI | ADS link ]

A one-dimensional composition model of Titan's upper atmosphere is constructed, coupling 36 neutral species and 47 ions. Energy inputs from the Sun and from Saturn's magnetosphere and updated temperature and eddy coefficient parameters are taken into account. A rotating technique at constant latitude and varying local-time is proposed to account for the diurnal variation of solar inputs. The contributions of photodissocation, neutral chemistry, ion-neutral chemistry, and electron recombination to neutral production are presented as a function of altitude and local time. Local time-dependent mixing ratio and density profiles are presented in the context of the T and T Cassini data and are compared in detail to previous models. An independent and simplified ion and neutral scheme (19-species) is also proposed for future 3D-purposes. The model results demonstrate that a complete understanding of the chemistry of Titan's upper atmosphere requires an understanding of the coupled ion and neutral chemistry. In particular, the ionospheric chemistry makes significant contributions to production rates of several important neutral species.

A. Spiga, H. Teitelbaum, and V. Zeitlin. Identification of the sources of inertia-gravity waves in the Andes Cordillera region. Annales Geophysicae, 26:2551-2568, 2008. [ bib | DOI | ADS link ]

Four major sources of inertia-gravity waves are known in the Earth atmosphere: upper-tropospheric jet-streams, lower-tropospheric fronts, convection and topography. The Andes Cordillera region is an area where all of these major sources are potentially present. By combining ECMWF and NCEP-NCAR reanalysis, satellite and radiosoundings data and mesoscale WRF simulations in the Andes Cordillera region, we were able to identify the cases where, respectively, the jet-stream source, the convective source and the topography source are predominantly in action. We retrieve emitted wave parameters for each case, compare them, and analyse possible emission mechanisms. The WRF mesoscale model shows very good performance in reproducing the inertia-gravity waves identified in the data analysis, and assessing their likely sources.

F. Lefèvre, J.-L. Bertaux, R. T. Clancy, T. Encrenaz, K. Fast, F. Forget, S. Lebonnois, F. Montmessin, and S. Perrier. Heterogeneous chemistry in the atmosphere of Mars. Nature, 454:971-975, 2008. [ bib | DOI | ADS link ]

Hydrogen radicals are produced in the martian atmosphere by the photolysis of water vapour and subsequently initiate catalytic cycles that recycle carbon dioxide from its photolysis product carbon monoxide. These processes provide a qualitative explanation for the stability of the atmosphere of Mars, which contains 95 per cent carbon dioxide. Balancing carbon dioxide production and loss based on our current understanding of the gas-phase chemistry in the martian atmosphere has, however, proven to be difficult. Interactions between gaseous chemical species and ice cloud particles have been shown to be key factors in the loss of polar ozone observed in the Earth's stratosphere, and may significantly perturb the chemistry of the Earth's upper troposphere. Water-ice clouds are also commonly observed in the atmosphere of Mars and it has been suggested previously that heterogeneous chemistry could have an important impact on the composition of the martian atmosphere. Here we use a state-of-the-art general circulation model together with new observations of the martian ozone layer to show that model simulations that include chemical reactions occurring on ice clouds lead to much improved quantitative agreement with observed martian ozone levels in comparison with model simulations based on gas-phase chemistry alone. Ozone is readily destroyed by hydrogen radicals and is therefore a sensitive tracer of the chemistry that regulates the atmosphere of Mars. Our results suggest that heterogeneous chemistry on ice clouds plays an important role in controlling the stability and composition of the martian atmosphere.

A. Spiga and F. Forget. Fast and accurate estimation of solar irradiance on Martian slopes. Geophysical Research Letters, 35:L15201, 2008. [ bib | DOI | ADS link ]

A general parameterization is proposed in this study to calculate, in a Mars-like dusty atmosphere, the solar irradiance reaching an inclined surface, assuming the value in the horizontal case is known. Complete Monte-Carlo radiative transfer calculations, using the Ockert-Bell et al. (1997) dust optical properties, enable the validation of the method for Mars. The total shortwave flux reaching the surface is composed of three contributions: direct incoming flux, reflected flux by surrounding terrains, and scattered flux by the atmospheric dust. The main difficulty is the parameterization of the latter component. We show that the scattered flux reaching the slope can be expressed by a physically-based simple formula involving one empirical coupling matrix and two vectors accounting for the scattering properties and the geometrical settings. The final result is a computationally efficient parameterization, with an accuracy in most cases better than 5 W.m-2. Such a fast and accurate method to calculate solar irradiance on Martian slopes (should they be topographical surfaces or solar panels) is of particular interest in a wide range of applications, such as remote-sensing measurements, geological and meteorological models, and Mars exploration missions design.

A. Sánchez-Lavega, R. Hueso, G. Piccioni, P. Drossart, J. Peralta, S. Pérez-Hoyos, C. F. Wilson, F. W. Taylor, K. H. Baines, D. Luz, S. Erard, and S. Lebonnois. Variable winds on Venus mapped in three dimensions. Geophysical Research Letters, 35:L13204, 2008. [ bib | DOI | ADS link ]

We present zonal and meridional wind measurements at three altitude levels within the cloud layers of Venus from cloud tracking using images taken with the VIRTIS instrument on board Venus Express. At low latitudes, zonal winds in the Southern hemisphere are nearly constant with latitude with westward velocities of 105 ms-1 at cloud-tops (altitude ˜ 66 km) and 60-70 ms-1 at the cloud-base (altitude ˜ 47 km). At high latitudes, zonal wind speeds decrease linearly with latitude with no detectable vertical wind shear (values lower than 15 ms-1), indicating the possibility of a vertically coherent vortex structure. Meridional winds at the cloud-tops are poleward with peak speed of 10 ms-1 at 55deg S but below the cloud tops and averaged over the South hemisphere are found to be smaller than 5 ms-1. We also report the detection at subpolar latitudes of wind variability due to the solar tide.

T. Encrenaz, T. K. Greathouse, M. J. Richter, B. Bézard, T. Fouchet, F. Lefèvre, F. Montmessin, F. Forget, S. Lebonnois, and S. K. Atreya. Simultaneous mapping of H 2O and H 2O 2 on Mars from infrared high-resolution imaging spectroscopy. Icarus, 195:547-556, 2008. [ bib | DOI | ADS link ]

New maps of martian water vapor and hydrogen peroxide have been obtained in November-December 2005, using the Texas Echelon Cross Echelle Spectrograph (TEXES) at the NASA Infra Red Telescope facility (IRTF) at Mauna Kea Observatory. The solar longitude L was 332deg (end of southern summer). Data have been obtained at 1235-1243 cm -1, with a spectral resolution of 0.016 cm -1 ( R=8×10). The mean water vapor mixing ratio in the region [0deg-55deg S; 345deg-45deg W], at the evening limb, is 15050 ppm (corresponding to a column density of 8.32.8 pr-μm). The mean water vapor abundance derived from our measurements is in global overall agreement with the TES and Mars Express results, as well as the GCM models, however its spatial distribution looks different from the GCM predictions, with evidence for an enhancement at low latitudes toward the evening side. The inferred mean H 2O 2 abundance is 1510 ppb, which is significantly lower than the June 2003 result [Encrenaz, T., Bézard, B., Greathouse, T.K., Richter, M.J., Lacy, J.H., Atreya, S.K., Wong, A.S., Lebonnois, S., Lefèvre, F., Forget, F., 2004. Icarus 170, 424-429] and lower than expected from the photochemical models, taking in account the change in season. Its spatial distribution shows some similarities with the map predicted by the GCM but the discrepancy in the H 2O 2 abundance remains to be understood and modeled.

T. Encrenaz, T. Fouchet, R. Melchiorri, P. Drossart, B. Gondet, Y. Langevin, J.-P. Bibring, F. Forget, L. Maltagliati, D. Titov, and V. Formisano. A study of the Martian water vapor over Hellas using OMEGA and PFS aboard Mars Express. Astronomy Astrophysics, 484:547-553, 2008. [ bib | DOI | ADS link ]

We used the OMEGA imaging spectrometer aboard Mars Express to study the evolution of the water vapor abundance over the Hellas basin, as a function of the seasonal cycle. The H2O column density is found to range from very low values (between southern fall and winter) up to more than 15 pr-μm during southern spring and summer. The general behavior is consistent with the expected seasonal cycle of water vapor on Mars, as previously observed by TES and modeled. In particular, the maximum water vapor content is observed around the southern solstice, and is significantly less than its northern couterpart. However, there is a noticeable discrepancy around the northern spring equinox (Ls = 330-60deg), where the observed H2O column densities are significantly lower than the values predicted by the GCM. Our data show an abrupt enhancement of the water vapor column density (from 3 to 16 pr-μm) on a timescale of 3 days, for Ls = 251-254deg. Such an increase, not predicted by the GCM, was also occasionally observed by TES over Hellas during previous martian years at the same season; however, its origin remains to be understood.

T. Fouchet, S. Guerlet, D. F. Strobel, A. A. Simon-Miller, B. Bézard, and F. M. Flasar. An equatorial oscillation in Saturn's middle atmosphere. Nature, 453:200-202, 2008. [ bib | DOI | ADS link ]

The middle atmospheres of planets are driven by a combination of radiative heating and cooling, mean meridional motions, and vertically propagating waves (which originate in the deep troposphere). It is very difficult to model these effects and, therefore, observations are essential to advancing our understanding of atmospheres. The equatorial stratospheres of Earth and Jupiter oscillate quasi-periodically on timescales of about two and four years, respectively, driven by wave-induced momentum transport. On Venus and Titan, waves originating from surface-atmosphere interaction and inertial instability are thought to drive the atmosphere to rotate more rapidly than the surface (superrotation). However, the relevant wave modes have not yet been precisely identified. Here we report infrared observations showing that Saturn has an equatorial oscillation like those found on Earth and Jupiter, as well as a mid-latitude subsidence that may be associated with the equatorial motion. The latitudinal extent of Saturn's oscillation shows that it obeys the same basic physics as do those on Earth and Jupiter. Future highly resolved observations of the temperature profile together with modelling of these three different atmospheres will allow us determine the wave mode, the wavelength and the wave amplitude that lead to middle atmosphere oscillation.

Y. Sekine, S. Lebonnois, H. Imanaka, T. Matsui, E. L. O. Bakes, C. P. McKay, B. N. Khare, and S. Sugita. The role of organic haze in Titan's atmospheric chemistry. II. Effect of heterogeneous reaction to the hydrogen budget and chemical composition of the atmosphere. Icarus, 194:201-211, 2008. [ bib | DOI | ADS link ]

One of the key components controlling the chemical composition and climatology of Titan's atmosphere is the removal of reactive atomic hydrogen from the atmosphere. A proposed process of the removal of atomic hydrogen is the heterogeneous reaction with organic aerosol. In this study, we investigate the effect of heterogeneous reactions in Titan's atmospheric chemistry using new measurements of the heterogeneous reaction rate [Sekine, Y., Imanaka, H., Matsui, T., Khare, B.N., Bakes, E.L.O., McKay, C.P., Sugita, S., 2008. Icarus 194, 186-200] in a one-dimensional photochemical model. Our results indicate that 60-75% of the atomic hydrogen in the stratosphere and mesosphere are consumed by the heterogeneous reactions. This result implies that the heterogeneous reactions on the aerosol surface may predominantly remove atomic hydrogen in Titan's stratosphere and mesosphere. The results of our calculation also indicate that a low concentration of atomic hydrogen enhances the concentrations of unsaturated complex organics, such as C 4H 2 and phenyl radical, by more than two orders in magnitude around 400 km in altitude. Such an increase in unsaturated species may induce efficient haze production in Titan's mesosphere and upper stratosphere. These results imply a positive feedback mechanism in haze production in Titan's atmosphere. The increase in haze production would affect the chemical composition of the atmosphere, which might induce further haze production. Such a positive feedback could tend to dampen the loss and supply cycles of CH 4 due to an episodic CH 4 release into Titan's atmosphere.

L. Maltagliati, D. V. Titov, T. Encrenaz, R. Melchiorri, F. Forget, M. Garcia-Comas, H. U. Keller, Y. Langevin, and J.-P. Bibring. Observations of atmospheric water vapor above the Tharsis volcanoes on Mars with the OMEGA/MEx imaging spectrometer. Icarus, 194:53-64, 2008. [ bib | DOI | ADS link ]

The OMEGA imaging spectrometer onboard the Mars Express spacecraft is particularly well suited to study in detail specific regions of Mars, thanks to its high spatial resolution and its high signal-to-noise ratio. We investigate the behavior of atmospheric water vapor over the four big volcanoes located on the Tharsis plateau (Olympus, Ascraeus, Pavonis and Arsia Mons) using the 2.6 μm band, which is the strongest and most sensitive H 2O band in the OMEGA spectral range. Our data sample covers the end of MY26 and the whole MY27, with gaps only in the late northern spring and in northern autumn. The most striking result of our retrievals is the increase of water vapor mixing ratio from the valley to the summit of volcanoes. Corresponding column density is often almost constant, despite a factor of 5 decrease in air mass from the bottom to the top. This peculiar water enrichment on the volcanoes is present in 75% of the orbits in our sample. The seasonal distribution of such enrichment hints at a seasonal dependence, with a minimum during the northern summer and a maximum around the northern spring equinox. The enrichment possibly also has a diurnal trend, being the orbits with a high degree of enrichment concentrated in the early morning. However, the season and the solar time of the observations, due to the motion of the spacecraft, are correlated, then the two dependences cannot be clearly disentangled. Several orbits exhibit also spatially localized enrichment structures, usually ring- or crescent-shaped. We retrieve also the height of the saturation level over the volcanoes. The results show a strong minimum around the aphelion season, due to the low temperatures, while it raises quickly before and after this period. The enrichment is possibly generated by the local circulation characteristic of the volcano region, which can transport upslope significant quantities of water vapor. The low altitude of the saturation level during the early summer can then hinder the transport of water during this season. The influence of the coupling between atmosphere and surface, due mainly to the action of the regoliths, can also contribute partially to the observed phenomenon.

R. M. Haberle, F. Forget, A. Colaprete, J. Schaeffer, W. V. Boynton, N. J. Kelly, and M. A. Chamberlain. The effect of ground ice on the Martian seasonal CO 2 cycle. Planetary and Space Science, 56:251-255, 2008. [ bib | DOI | ADS link ]

The mostly carbon dioxide (CO 2) atmosphere of Mars condenses and sublimes in the polar regions, giving rise to the familiar waxing and waning of its polar caps. The signature of this seasonal CO 2 cycle has been detected in surface pressure measurements from the Viking and Pathfinder landers. The amount of CO 2 that condenses during fall and winter is controlled by the net polar energy loss, which is dominated by emitted infrared radiation from the cap itself. However, models of the CO 2 cycle match the surface pressure data only if the emitted radiation is artificially suppressed suggesting that they are missing a heat source. Here we show that the missing heat source is the conducted energy coming from soil that contains water ice very close to the surface. The presence of ice significantly increases the thermal conductivity of the ground such that more of the solar energy absorbed at the surface during summer is conducted downward into the ground where it is stored and released back to the surface during fall and winter thereby retarding the CO 2 condensation rate. The reduction in the condensation rate is very sensitive to the depth of the soil/ice interface, which our models suggest is about 8 cm in the Northern Hemisphere and 11 cm in the Southern Hemisphere. This is consistent with the detection of significant amounts of polar ground ice by the Mars Odyssey Gamma Ray Spectrometer and provides an independent means for assessing how close to the surface the ice must be. Our results also provide an accurate determination of the global annual mean size of the atmosphere and cap CO 2 reservoirs, which are, respectively, 6.1 and 0.9 hPa. They also indicate that general circulation models will need to account for the effect of ground ice in their simulations of the seasonal CO 2 cycle.

S. Lebonnois. The atmospheres of Mars, Venus and Titan: observed and modelled structures. Acoustical Society of America Journal, 123:3400, 2008. [ bib | DOI | ADS link ]