2016 .

(19 publications)

T. Bertrand and F. Forget. Observed glacier and volatile distribution on Pluto from atmosphere-topography processes. Nature, 540:86-89, 2016. [ bib | DOI | ADS link ]

Pluto has a variety of surface frosts and landforms as well as a complex atmosphere. There is ongoing geological activity related to the massive Sputnik Planitia glacier, mostly made of nitrogen (N2) ice mixed with solid carbon monoxide and methane, covering the 4-kilometre-deep, 1,000-kilometre-wide basin of Sputnik Planitia near the anti-Charon point. The glacier has been suggested to arise from a source region connected to the deep interior, or from a sink collecting the volatiles released planetwide. Thin deposits of N2 frost, however, were also detected at mid-northern latitudes and methane ice was observed to cover most of Pluto except for the darker, frost-free equatorial regions. Here we report numerical simulations of the evolution of N2, methane and carbon monoxide on Pluto over thousands of years. The model predicts N2 ice accumulation in the deepest low-latitude basin and the threefold increase in atmospheric pressure that has been observed to occur since 1988. This points to atmospheric-topographic processes as the origin of Sputnik Planitias N2 glacier. The same simulations also reproduce the observed quantities of volatiles in the atmosphere and show frosts of methane, and sometimes N2, that seasonally cover the mid- and high latitudes, explaining the bright northern polar cap reported in the 1990s and the observed ice distribution in 2015. The model also predicts that most of these seasonal frosts should disappear in the next decade.

M. Turbet, J. Leconte, F. Selsis, E. Bolmont, F. Forget, I. Ribas, S. N. Raymond, and G. Anglada-Escudé. The habitability of Proxima Centauri b. II. Possible climates and observability. Astronomy Astrophysics, 596:A112, 2016. [ bib | DOI | arXiv | ADS link ]

Radial velocity monitoring has found the signature of a Msini = 1.3M planet located within the habitable zone (HZ) of Proxima Centauri. Despite a hotter past and an active host star, the planet Proxima b could have retained enough volatiles to sustain surface habitability. Here we use a 3D Global Climate Model (GCM) to simulate the atmosphere and water cycle of Proxima b for its two likely rotation modes (1:1 and 3:2 spin-orbit resonances), while varying the unconstrained surface water inventory and atmospheric greenhouse effect. Any low-obliquity, low-eccentricity planet within the HZ of its star should be in one of the climate regimes discussed here. We find that a broad range of atmospheric compositions allow surface liquid water. On a tidally locked planet with sufficient surface water inventory, liquid water is always present, at least in the substellar region. With a non-synchronous rotation, this requires a minimum greenhouse warming ( 10 mbar of CO2 and 1 bar of N2). If the planet is dryer, 0.5 bar or 1.5 bars of CO2 (for asynchronous or synchronous rotation, respectively) suffice to prevent the trapping of any arbitrary, small water inventory into polar or nightside ice caps. We produce reflection and emission spectra and phase curves for the simulated climates. We find that atmospheric characterization will be possible via direct imaging with forthcoming large telescopes. The angular separation of 7λ/D at 1 μm (with the E-ELT) and a contrast of 10-7 will enable high-resolution spectroscopy and the search for molecular signatures, including H2O, O2, and CO2. The observation of thermal phase curves can be attempted with the James Webb Space Telescope, thanks to a contrast of 2 × 10-5 at 10 μm. Proxima b will also be an exceptional target for future IR interferometers. Within a decade it will be possible to image Proxima b and possibly determine whether the surface of this exoplanet is habitable.

I. Ribas, E. Bolmont, F. Selsis, A. Reiners, J. Leconte, S. N. Raymond, S. G. Engle, E. F. Guinan, J. Morin, M. Turbet, F. Forget, and G. Anglada-Escudé. The habitability of Proxima Centauri b. I. Irradiation, rotation and volatile inventory from formation to the present. Astronomy Astrophysics, 596:A111, 2016. [ bib | DOI | arXiv | ADS link ]

Proxima b is a planet with a minimum mass of 1.3M orbiting within the habitable zone (HZ) of Proxima Centauri, a very low-mass, active star and the Sun's closest neighbor. Here we investigate a number of factors related to the potential habitability of Proxima b and its ability to maintain liquid water on its surface. We set the stage by estimating the current high-energy irradiance of the planet and show that the planet currently receives 30 times more extreme-UV radiation than Earth and 250 times more X-rays. We compute the time evolution of the star's spectrum, which is essential for modeling the flux received over Proxima b's lifetime. We also show that Proxima b's obliquity is likely null and its spin is either synchronous or in a 3:2 spin-orbit resonance, depending on the planet's eccentricity and level of triaxiality. Next we consider the evolution of Proxima b's water inventory. We use our spectral energy distribution to compute the hydrogen loss from the planet with an improved energy-limited escape formalism. Despite the high level of stellar activity we find that Proxima b is likely to have lost less than an Earth ocean's worth of hydrogen (EOH) before it reached the HZ 100-200 Myr after its formation. The largest uncertainty in our work is the initial water budget, which is not constrained by planet formation models. We conclude that Proxima b is a viable candidate habitable planet.

M. Klose, B. C. Jemmett-Smith, H. Kahanpää, M. Kahre, P. Knippertz, M. T. Lemmon, S. R. Lewis, R. D. Lorenz, L. D. V. Neakrase, C. Newman, M. R. Patel, D. Reiss, A. Spiga, and P. L. Whelley. Dust Devil Sediment Transport: From Lab to Field to Global Impact. Space Science Reviews, 203:377-426, 2016. [ bib | DOI | ADS link ]

The impact of dust aerosols on the climate and environment of Earth and Mars is complex and forms a major area of research. A difficulty arises in estimating the contribution of small-scale dust devils to the total dust aerosol. This difficulty is due to uncertainties in the amount of dust lifted by individual dust devils, the frequency of dust devil occurrence, and the lack of statistical generality of individual experiments and observations. In this paper, we review results of observational, laboratory, and modeling studies and provide an overview of dust devil dust transport on various spatio-temporal scales as obtained with the different research approaches. Methods used for the investigation of dust devils on Earth and Mars vary. For example, while the use of imagery for the investigation of dust devil occurrence frequency is common practice for Mars, this is less so the case for Earth. Modeling approaches for Earth and Mars are similar in that they are based on the same underlying theory, but they are applied in different ways. Insights into the benefits and limitations of each approach suggest potential future research focuses, which can further reduce the uncertainty associated with dust devil dust entrainment. The potential impacts of dust devils on the climates of Earth and Mars are discussed on the basis of the presented research results.

A. Spiga, E. Barth, Z. Gu, F. Hoffmann, J. Ito, B. Jemmett-Smith, M. Klose, S. Nishizawa, S. Raasch, S. Rafkin, T. Takemi, D. Tyler, and W. Wei. Large-Eddy Simulations of Dust Devils and Convective Vortices. Space Science Reviews, 203:245-275, 2016. [ bib | DOI | ADS link ]

In this review, we address the use of numerical computations called Large-Eddy Simulations (LES) to study dust devils, and the more general class of atmospheric phenomena they belong to (convective vortices). We describe the main elements of the LES methodology. We review the properties, statistics, and variability of dust devils and convective vortices resolved by LES in both terrestrial and Martian environments. The current challenges faced by modelers using LES for dust devils are also discussed in detail.

R. D. Lorenz, M. R. Balme, Z. Gu, H. Kahanpää, M. Klose, M. V. Kurgansky, M. R. Patel, D. Reiss, A. P. Rossi, A. Spiga, T. Takemi, and W. Wei. History and Applications of Dust Devil Studies. Space Science Reviews, 203:5-37, 2016. [ bib | DOI | ADS link ]

Studies of dust devils, and their impact on society, are reviewed. Dust devils have been noted since antiquity, and have been documented in many countries, as well as on the planet Mars. As time-variable vortex entities, they have become a cultural motif. Three major stimuli of dust devil research are identified, nuclear testing, terrestrial climate studies, and perhaps most significantly, Mars research. Dust devils present an occasional safety hazard to light structures and have caused several deaths.

D. Reiss, R. D. Lorenz, M. Balme, L. D. Neakrase, A. P. Rossi, A. Spiga, and J. Zarnecki. Editorial: Topical Volume on Dust Devils. Space Science Reviews, 203:1-4, 2016. [ bib | DOI | ADS link ]

S. Lebonnois, N. Sugimoto, and G. Gilli. Wave analysis in the atmosphere of Venus below 100-km altitude, simulated by the LMD Venus GCM. Icarus, 278:38-51, 2016. [ bib | DOI | ADS link ]

A new simulation of Venus atmospheric circulation obtained with the LMD Venus GCM is described and the simulated wave activity is analyzed. Agreement with observed features of the temperature structure, static stability and zonal wind field is good, such as the presence of a cold polar collar, diurnal and semi-diurnal tides. At the resolution used (96 longitudes × 96 latitudes), a fully developed superrotation is obtained both when the simulation is initialized from rest and from an atmosphere already in superrotation, though winds are still weak below the clouds (roughly half the observed values). The atmospheric waves play a crucial role in the angular momentum budget of the Venus's atmospheric circulation. In the upper cloud, the vertical angular momentum is transported by the diurnal and semi-diurnal tides. Above the cloud base (approximately 1 bar), equatorward transport of angular momentum is done by polar barotropic and mid- to high-latitude baroclinic waves present in the cloud region, with frequencies between 5 and 20 cycles per Venus day (periods between 6 and 23 Earth days). In the middle cloud, just above the convective layer, a Kelvin type wave (period around 7.3 Ed) is present at the equator, as well as a low-latitude Rossby-gravity type wave (period around 16 Ed). Below the clouds, large-scale mid- to high-latitude gravity waves develop and play a significant role in the angular momentum balance.

T. Fouchet, T. K. Greathouse, A. Spiga, L. N. Fletcher, S. Guerlet, J. Leconte, and G. S. Orton. Stratospheric aftermath of the 2010 Storm on Saturn as observed by the TEXES instrument. I. Temperature structure. Icarus, 277:196-214, 2016. [ bib | DOI | arXiv | ADS link ]

We report on spectroscopic observations of Saturn's stratosphere in July 2011 with the Texas Echelon Cross Echelle Spectrograph (TEXES) mounted on the NASA InfraRed Telescope Facility (IRTF). The observations, targeting several lines of the CH4ν4 band and the H2 S(1) quadrupolar line, were designed to determine how Saturn's stratospheric thermal structure was disturbed by the 2010 Great White Spot. A study of Cassini Composite Infrared Spectrometer (CIRS) spectra had already shown the presence of a large stratospheric disturbance centered at a pressure of 2 hPa, nicknamed the beacon B0, and a tail of warm air at lower pressures (Fletcher et al. [2012] Icarus 221, 560-586). Our observations confirm that the beacon B0 vertical structure determined by CIRS, with a maximum temperature of 180 1 K at 2 hPa, is overlain by a temperature decrease up to the 0.2-hPa pressure level. Our retrieved maximum temperature of 180 1 K is colder than that derived by CIRS (200 1 K), a difference that may be quantitatively explained by terrestrial atmospheric smearing. We propose a scenario for the formation of the beacon based on the saturation of gravity waves emitted by the GWS. Our observations also reveal that the tail is a planet-encircling disturbance in Saturn's upper stratosphere, oscillating between 0.2 and 0.02 hPa, showing a distinct wavenumber-2 pattern. We propose that this pattern in the upper stratosphere is either the signature of thermal tides generated by the presence of the warm beacon in the mid-stratosphere, or the signature of Rossby wave activity.

T. T. Koskinen, J. I. Moses, R. A. West, S. Guerlet, and A. Jouchoux. The detection of benzene in Saturn's upper atmosphere. Geophysical Research Letters, 43:7895-7901, 2016. [ bib | DOI | ADS link ]

The stratosphere of Saturn contains a photochemical haze that appears thicker at the poles and may originate from chemistry driven by the aurora. Models suggest that the formation of hydrocarbon haze is initiated at high altitudes by the production of benzene, which is followed by the formation of heavier ring polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Until now there have been no observations of hydrocarbons or photochemical haze in the production region to constrain these models. We report the first vertical profiles of benzene and constraints on haze opacity in the upper atmosphere of Saturn retrieved from Cassini Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph stellar occultations. We detect benzene at several different latitudes and find that the observed abundances of benzene can be produced by solar-driven ion chemistry that is enhanced at high latitudes in the northern hemisphere during spring. We also detect evidence for condensation and haze at high southern latitudes in the polar night.

J. Yang, J. Leconte, E. T. Wolf, C. Goldblatt, N. Feldl, T. Merlis, Y. Wang, D. D. B. Koll, F. Ding, F. Forget, and D. S. Abbot. Differences in Water Vapor Radiative Transfer among 1D Models Can Significantly Affect the Inner Edge of the Habitable Zone. Astrophysical Journal, 826:222, 2016. [ bib | DOI | arXiv | ADS link ]

An accurate estimate of the inner edge of the habitable zone is critical for determining which exoplanets are potentially habitable and for designing future telescopes to observe them. Here, we explore differences in estimating the inner edge among seven one-dimensional radiative transfer models: two line-by-line codes (SMART and LBLRTM) as well as five band codes (CAM3, CAM4_Wolf, LMDG, SBDART, and AM2) that are currently being used in global climate models. We compare radiative fluxes and spectra in clear-sky conditions around G and M stars, with fixed moist adiabatic profiles for surface temperatures from 250 to 360 K. We find that divergences among the models arise mainly from large uncertainties in water vapor absorption in the window region (10 μm) and in the region between 0.2 and 1.5 μm. Differences in outgoing longwave radiation increase with surface temperature and reach 10-20 W m-2 differences in shortwave reach up to 60 W m-2, especially at the surface and in the troposphere, and are larger for an M-dwarf spectrum than a solar spectrum. Differences between the two line-by-line models are significant, although smaller than among the band models. Our results imply that the uncertainty in estimating the insolation threshold of the inner edge (the runaway greenhouse limit) due only to clear-sky radiative transfer is 10% of modern Earths solar constant (I.e., 34 W m-2 in global mean) among band models and 3% between the two line-by-line models. These comparisons show that future work is needed that focuses on improving water vapor absorption coefficients in both shortwave and longwave, as well as on increasing the resolution of stellar spectra in broadband models.

R. Modolo, S. Hess, M. Mancini, F. Leblanc, J.-Y. Chaufray, D. Brain, L. Leclercq, R. Esteban-Hernández, G. Chanteur, P. Weill, F. González-Galindo, F. Forget, M. Yagi, and C. Mazelle. Mars-solar wind interaction: LatHyS, an improved parallel 3-D multispecies hybrid model. Journal of Geophysical Research (Space Physics), 121:6378-6399, 2016. [ bib | DOI | ADS link ]

In order to better represent Mars-solar wind interaction, we present an unprecedented model achieving spatial resolution down to 50 km, a so far unexplored resolution for global kinetic models of the Martian ionized environment. Such resolution approaches the ionospheric plasma scale height. In practice, the model is derived from a first version described in Modolo et al. (2005). An important effort of parallelization has been conducted and is presented here. A better description of the ionosphere was also implemented including ionospheric chemistry, electrical conductivities, and a drag force modeling the ion-neutral collisions in the ionosphere. This new version of the code, named LatHyS (Latmos Hybrid Simulation), is here used to characterize the impact of various spatial resolutions on simulation results. In addition, and following a global model challenge effort, we present the results of simulation run for three cases which allow addressing the effect of the suprathermal corona and of the solar EUV activity on the magnetospheric plasma boundaries and on the global escape. Simulation results showed that global patterns are relatively similar for the different spatial resolution runs, but finest grid runs provide a better representation of the ionosphere and display more details of the planetary plasma dynamic. Simulation results suggest that a significant fraction of escaping O+ ions is originated from below 1200 km altitude.

J.-L. Bertaux, I. V. Khatuntsev, A. Hauchecorne, W. J. Markiewicz, E. Marcq, S. Lebonnois, M. Patsaeva, A. Turin, and A. Fedorova. Influence of Venus topography on the zonal wind and UV albedo at cloud top level: The role of stationary gravity waves. Journal of Geophysical Research (Planets), 121:1087-1101, 2016. [ bib | DOI | ADS link ]

Based on the analysis of UV images (at 365 nm) of Venus cloud top (altitude 67 2 km) collected with Venus Monitoring Camera on board Venus Express (VEX), it is found that the zonal wind speed south of the equator (from 5degS to 15degS) shows a conspicuous variation (from -101 to -83 m/s) with geographic longitude of Venus, correlated with the underlying relief of Aphrodite Terra. We interpret this pattern as the result of stationary gravity waves produced at ground level by the uplift of air when the horizontal wind encounters a mountain slope. These waves can propagate up to the cloud top level, break there, and transfer their momentum to the zonal flow. Such upward propagation of gravity waves and influence on the wind speed vertical profile was shown to play an important role in the middle atmosphere of the Earth by Lindzen (1981) but is not reproduced in the current GCM of Venus atmosphere from LMD. (Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique) In the equatorial regions, the UV albedo at 365 nm varies also with longitude. We argue that this variation may be simply explained by the divergence of the horizontal wind field. In the longitude region (from 60deg to -10deg) where the horizontal wind speed is increasing in magnitude (stretch), it triggers air upwelling which brings the UV absorber at cloud top level and decreases the albedo and vice versa when the wind is decreasing in magnitude (compression). This picture is fully consistent with the classical view of Venus meridional circulation, with upwelling at equator revealed by horizontal air motions away from equator: the longitude effect is only an additional but important modulation of this effect. This interpretation is comforted by a recent map of cloud top H2O, showing that near the equator the lower UV albedo longitude region is correlated with increased H2O. We argue that H2O enhancement is the sign of upwelling, suggesting that the UV absorber is also brought to cloud top by upwelling.

A. Piccialli, M. A. López-Valverde, A. Määttänen, F. González-Galindo, J. Audouard, F. Altieri, F. Forget, P. Drossart, B. Gondet, and J. P. Bibring. CO2 non-LTE limb emissions in Mars' atmosphere as observed by OMEGA/Mars Express. Journal of Geophysical Research (Planets), 121:1066-1086, 2016. [ bib | DOI | ADS link ]

We report on daytime limb observations of Mars upper atmosphere acquired by the OMEGA instrument on board the European spacecraft Mars Express. The strong emission observed at 4.3 μm is interpreted as due to CO2 fluorescence of solar radiation and is detected at a tangent altitude in between 60 and 110 km. The main value of OMEGA observations is that they provide simultaneously spectral information and good spatial sampling of the CO2 emission. In this study we analyzed 98 dayside limb observations spanning over more than 3 Martian years, with a very good latitudinal and longitudinal coverage. Thanks to the precise altitude sounding capabilities of OMEGA, we extracted vertical profiles of the non-local thermodynamic equilibrium (non-LTE) emission at each wavelength and we studied their dependence on several geophysical parameters, such as the solar illumination and the tangent altitude. The dependence of the non-LTE emission on solar zenith angle and altitude follows a similar behavior to that predicted by the non-LTE model. According to our non-LTE model, the tangent altitude of the peak of the CO2 emission varies with the thermal structure, but the pressure level where the peak of the emission is found remains constant at 0.03 0.01 Pa, . This non-LTE model prediction has been corroborated by comparing SPICAM and OMEGA observations. We have shown that the seasonal variations of the altitude of constant pressure levels in SPICAM stellar occultation retrievals correlate well with the variations of the OMEGA peak emission altitudes, although the exact pressure level cannot be defined with the spectroscopy for the investigation of the characteristics of the atmosphere of Venus (SPICAM) nighttime data. Thus, observed changes in the altitude of the peak emission provide us information on the altitude of the 0.03 Pa pressure level. Since the pressure at a given altitude is dictated by the thermal structure below, the tangent altitude of the peak emission represents then an important piece of information of the atmosphere, of great value for validating general circulation models. We thus compared the altitude of OMEGA peak emission with the altitude of the 0.03 Pa level predicted by the Laboratoire de météorologie dynamique (LMD)-Mars global circulation model and found that the peak emission altitudes from OMEGA present a much larger variability than the tangent altitude of the 0.03 Pa level predicted by the general circulation model. This variability could be possibly due to unresolved atmospheric waves. Further studies using this strong CO2 limb emission data are proposed.

S. Bouley, D. Baratoux, I. Matsuyama, F. Forget, A. Séjourné, M. Turbet, and F. Costard. Late Tharsis formation and implications for early Mars. Nature, 531:344-347, 2016. [ bib | DOI | ADS link ]

The Tharsis region is the largest volcanic complex on Mars and in the Solar System. Young lava flows cover its surface (from the Amazonian period, less than 3 billion years ago) but its growth started during the Noachian era (more than 3.7 billion years ago). Its position has induced a reorientation of the planet with respect to its spin axis (true polar wander, TPW), which is responsible for the present equatorial position of the volcanic province. It has been suggested that the Tharsis load on the lithosphere influenced the orientation of the Noachian/Early Hesperian (more than 3.5 billion years ago) valley networks and therefore that most of the topography of Tharsis was completed before fluvial incision. Here we calculate the rotational figure of Mars (that is, its equilibrium shape) and its surface topography before Tharsis formed, when the spin axis of the planet was controlled by the difference in elevation between the northern and southern hemispheres (hemispheric dichotomy). We show that the observed directions of valley networks are also consistent with topographic gradients in this configuration and thus do not require the presence of the Tharsis load. Furthermore, the distribution of the valleys along a small circle tilted with respect to the equator is found to correspond to a southern-hemisphere latitudinal band in the pre-TPW geographical frame. Preferential accumulation of ice or water in a south tropical band is predicted by climate model simulations of early Mars applied to the pre-TPW topography. A late growth of Tharsis, contemporaneous with valley incision, has several implications for the early geological history of Mars, including the existence of glacial environments near the locations of the pre-TPW poles of rotation, and a possible link between volcanic outgassing from Tharsis and the stability of liquid water at the surface of Mars.

T. Encrenaz, C. DeWitt, M. J. Richter, T. K. Greathouse, T. Fouchet, F. Montmessin, F. Lefèvre, F. Forget, B. Bézard, S. K. Atreya, M. Case, and N. Ryde. A map of D/H on Mars in the thermal infrared using EXES aboard SOFIA. Astronomy Astrophysics, 586:A62, 2016. [ bib | DOI | ADS link ]

On a planetary scale, the D/H ratio on Mars is a key diagnostic for understanding the past history of water on the planet; locally, it can help to constrain the sources and sinks of water vapor through the monitoring of condensation and sublimation processes. To obtain simultaneous measurements of H2O and HDO lines, we have used the Echelle Cross Echelle Spectrograph (EXES) instrument aboard the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) facility to map the abundances of these two species over the Martian disk. High-resolution spectra (R = 6 × 104) were recorded in the 1383-1390 cm-1 range (7.2 μm) on April 08, 2014. Mars was very close to opposition and near northern summer solstice (Ls = 113deg). Maps of the H2O and HDO mixing ratios were retrieved from the line depth ratios of weak H2O and HDO transitions divided by a weak CO2 line. As expected for this season, the H2O and HDO maps show a distinct enhancement toward polar regions, and their mixing ratios are consistent with previous measurements and with predictions by the global climate models, except at the north pole where the EXES values are weaker. We derive a disk-integrated D/H ratio of 6.8 (+1.6, -1.0) × 10-4. It is higher than the value in Earth's oceans by a factor 4.4 (+1.0, -0.6). The D/H map also shows an enhancement from southern to northern latitudes, with values ranging from about 3.5 times to 6.0 times the VSMOW (Vienna standard mean ocean water) value. The D/H distribution shows a depletion over the Tharsis mountains and is consistent with observed latitudinal variations. The variations in D/H with latitude and altitude agree with the models and with the isotope fractionation expected from condensation and sublimation processes.

P. L. Read, J. Barstow, B. Charnay, S. Chelvaniththilan, P. G. J. Irwin, S. Knight, S. Lebonnois, S. R. Lewis, J. Mendonça, and L. Montabone. Global energy budgets and `Trenberth diagrams' for the climates of terrestrial and gas giant planets. Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, 142:703-720, 2016. [ bib | DOI | ADS link ]

C. Pilorget and F. Forget. Formation of gullies on Mars by debris flows triggered by CO2 sublimation. Nature Geoscience, 9:65-69, 2016. [ bib | DOI | ADS link ]

Martian gully landforms resemble terrestrial debris flows formed by the action of liquid water and have thus been interpreted as evidence for potential habitable environments on Mars within the past few millennia. However, ongoing gully formation has been detected under surface conditions much too cold for liquid water, but at times in the martian year when a thin layer of seasonal CO2 frost is present and defrosting above the regolith. These observations suggest that the CO2 condensation-sublimation cycle could play a role in gully formation. Here we use a thermo-physical numerical model of the martian regolith underlying a CO2 ice layer and atmosphere to show that the pores beneath the ice layer can be filled with CO2 ice and subjected to extreme pressure variations during the defrosting season. The subsequent gas fluxes can destabilize the regolith material and induce gas-lubricated debris flows with geomorphic characteristics similar to martian gullies. Moreover, we find that subsurface CO2 ice condensation, sublimation and pressurization occurs at conditions found at latitudes and slope orientations where gullies are observed. We conclude that martian gullies can result from geologic dry ice processes that have no terrestrial analogues and do not require liquid water. Such dry ice processes may have helped shape the evolution of landforms elsewhere on the martian surface.

D. P. Mulholland, S. R. Lewis, P. L. Read, J.-B. Madeleine, and F. Forget. The solsticial pause on Mars: 2 modelling and investigation of causes. Icarus, 264:465-477, 2016. [ bib | DOI | ADS link ]

The martian solsticial pause, presented in a companion paper (Lewis et al., 2016), was investigated further through a series of model runs using the UK version of the LMD/UK Mars Global Climate Model. It was found that the pause could not be adequately reproduced if radiatively active water ice clouds were omitted from the model. When clouds were used, along with a realistic time-dependent dust opacity distribution, a substantial minimum in near-surface transient eddy activity formed around solstice in both hemispheres. The net effect of the clouds in the model is, by altering the thermal structure of the atmosphere, to decrease the vertical shear of the westerly jet near the surface around solstice, and thus reduce baroclinic growth rates. A similar effect was seen under conditions of large dust loading, implying that northern midlatitude eddy activity will tend to become suppressed after a period of intense flushing storm formation around the northern cap edge. Suppression of baroclinic eddy generation by the barotropic component of the flow and via diabatic eddy dissipation were also investigated as possible mechanisms leading to the formation of the solsticial pause but were found not to make major contributions. Zonal variations in topography were found to be important, as their presence results in weakened transient eddies around winter solstice in both hemispheres, through modification of the near-surface flow. The zonal topographic asymmetry appears to be the primary reason for the weakness of eddy activity in the southern hemisphere relative to the northern hemisphere, and the ultimate cause of the solsticial pause in both hemispheres. The meridional topographic gradient was found to exert a much weaker influence on near-surface transient eddies.