A. Sánchez-Lavega, S. Lebonnois, T. Imamura, P. Read, and D. Luz. The Atmospheric Dynamics of Venus. Space Science Reviews, 212:1541-1616, 2017. [ bib | DOI | ADS link ]

We review our current knowledge of the atmospheric dynamics of Venus prior to the Akatsuki mission, in the altitude range from the surface to approximately the cloud tops located at about 100 km altitude. The three-dimensional structure of the wind field in this region has been determined with a variety of techniques over a broad range of spatial and temporal scales (from the mesoscale to planetary, from days to years, in daytime and nighttime), spanning a period of about 50 years (from the 1960s to the present). The global panorama is that the mean atmospheric motions are essentially zonal, dominated by the so-called super-rotation (an atmospheric rotation that is 60 to 80 times faster than that of the planetary body). The zonal winds blow westward (in the same direction as the planet rotation) with a nearly constant speed of 100 m s^{-1} at the cloud tops (65-70 km altitude) from latitude 50degN to 50degS, then decreasing their speeds monotonically from these latitudes toward the poles. Vertically, the zonal winds decrease with decreasing altitude towards velocities 1-3 m s^{-1} in a layer of thickness 10 km close to the surface. Meridional motions with peak speeds of 15 m s^{-1} occur within the upper cloud at 65 km altitude and are related to a Hadley cell circulation and to the solar thermal tide. Vertical motions with speeds 1-3 m s^{-1} occur in the statically unstable layer between altitudes of 50 - 55 km. All these motions are permanent with speed variations of the order of 10%. Various types of wave, from mesoscale gravity waves to Rossby-Kelvin planetary scale waves, have been detected at and above cloud heights, and are considered to be candidates as agents for carrying momentum that drives the super-rotation, although numerical models do not fully reproduce all the observed features. Momentum transport by atmospheric waves and the solar tide is thought to be an indispensable component of the general circulation of the Venus atmosphere. Another conspicuous feature of the atmospheric circulation is the presence of polar vortices. These are present in both hemispheres and are regions of warmer and lower clouds, seen prominently at infrared wavelengths, showing a highly variable morphology and motions. The vortices spin with a period of 2-3 days. The South polar vortex rotates around a geographical point which is itself displaced from the true pole of rotation by 3 degrees. The polar vortex is surrounded and constrained by the cold collar, an infrared-dark region of lower temperatures. We still lack detailed models of the mechanisms underlying the dynamics of these features and how they couple (or not) to the super-rotation. The nature of the super-rotation relates to the angular momentum stored in the atmosphere and how it is transported between the tropics and higher latitudes, and between the deep atmosphere and upper levels. The role of eddy processes is crucial, but likely involves the complex interaction of a variety of different types of eddy, either forced directly by radiative heating and mechanical interactions with the surface or through various forms of instability. Numerical models have achieved some significant recent success in capturing some aspects of the observed super-rotation, consistent with the scenario discussed by Gierasch (J. Atmos. Sci. 32:1038-1044, 1975) and Rossow and Williams (J. Atmos. Sci. 36:377-389, 1979), but many uncertainties remain, especially in the deep atmosphere. The theoretical framework developed to explain the circulation in Venus's atmosphere is reviewed, as well as the numerical models that have been built to elucidate the super-rotation mechanism. These tools are used to analyze the respective roles of the different waves in the processes driving the observed motions. Their limitations and suggested directions for improvements are discussed.

S. S. Limaye, S. Lebonnois, A. Mahieux, M. Pätzold, S. Bougher, S. Bruinsma, S. Chamberlain, R. T. Clancy, J.-C. Gérard, G. Gilli, D. Grassi, R. Haus, M. Herrmann, T. Imamura, E. Kohler, P. Krause, A. Migliorini, F. Montmessin, C. Pere, M. Persson, A. Piccialli, M. Rengel, A. Rodin, B. Sandor, M. Sornig, H. Svedhem, S. Tellmann, P. Tanga, A. C. Vandaele, T. Widemann, C. F. Wilson, I. Müller-Wodarg, and L. Zasova. The thermal structure of the Venus atmosphere: Intercomparison of Venus Express and ground based observations of vertical temperature and density profiles. Icarus, 294:124-155, 2017. [ bib | DOI | ADS link ]

The Venus International Reference Atmosphere (VIRA) model contains tabulated values of temperature and number densities obtained by the experiments on the Venera entry probes, Pioneer Venus Orbiter and multi-probe missions in the 1980s. The instruments on the recent Venus Express orbiter mission generated a significant amount of new observational data on the vertical and horizontal structure of the Venus atmosphere from 40 km to about 180 km altitude from April 2006 to November 2014. Many ground based experiments have provided data on the upper atmosphere (90-130 km) temperature structure since the publication of VIRA in 1985. The “Thermal Structure of the Venus Atmosphere” Team was supported by the International Space Studies Institute (ISSI), Bern, Switzerland, from 2013 to 2015 in order to combine and compare the ground-based observations and the VEx observations of the thermal structure as a first step towards generating an updated VIRA model. Results of this comparison are presented in five latitude bins and three local time bins by assuming hemispheric symmetry. The intercomparison of the ground-based and VEx results provides for the first time a consistent picture of the temperature and density structure in the 40 km-180 km altitude range. The Venus Express observations have considerably increased our knowledge of the Venus atmospheric thermal structure above ~40 km and provided new information above 100 km. There are, however, still observational gaps in latitude and local time above certain regions. Considerable variability in the temperatures and densities is seen above 100 km but certain features appear to be systematically present, such as a succession of warm and cool layers. Preliminary modeling studies support the existence of such layers in agreement with a global scale circulation. The intercomparison focuses on average profiles but some VEx experiments provide sufficient global coverage to identify solar thermal tidal components.

The differences between the VEx temperature profiles and the VIRA below 0.1 mbar/95 km are small. There is, however, a clear discrepancy at high latitudes in the 10-30 mbar (70-80 km) range. The VEx observations will also allow the improvement of the empirical models (VTS3 by Hedin et al., 1983 and VIRA by Keating et al., 1985) above 0.03 mbar/100 km, in particular the 100-150 km region where a sufficient observational coverage was previously missing. The next steps in order to define the updated VIRA temperature structure up to 150 km altitude are (1) define the grid on which this database may be provided, (2) fill what is possible with the results of the data intercomparison, and (3) fill the observational gaps. An interpolation between the datasets may be performed by using available General Circulation Models as guidelines.

An improved spatial coverage of observations is still necessary at all altitudes, in latitude-longitude and at all local solar times for a complete description of the atmospheric thermal structure, in particular on the dayside above 100 km. New in-situ observations in the atmosphere below 40 km are missing, an altitude region that cannot be accessed by occultation experiments. All these questions need to be addressed by future missions.

S. Lebonnois and G. Schubert. The deep atmosphere of Venus and the possible role of density-driven separation of CO2 and N2. Nature Geoscience, 10:473-477, 2017. [ bib | DOI | ADS link ]

With temperatures around 700 K and pressures of around 75 bar, the deepest 12 km of the atmosphere of Venus are so hot and dense that the atmosphere behaves like a supercritical fluid. The Soviet VeGa-2 probe descended through the atmosphere in 1985 and obtained the only reliable temperature profile for the deep Venusian atmosphere thus far. In this temperature profile, the atmosphere appears to be highly unstable at altitudes below 7 km, contrary to expectations. We argue that the VeGa-2 temperature profile could be explained by a change in the atmospheric gas composition, and thus molecular mass, with depth. We propose that the deep atmosphere consists of a non-homogeneous layer in which the abundance of N2-the second most abundant constituent of the Venusian atmosphere after CO2-gradually decreases to near-zero at the surface. It is difficult to explain a decline in N2 towards the surface with known nitrogen sources and sinks for Venus. Instead we suggest, partly based on experiments on supercritical fluids, that density-driven separation of N2 from CO2 can occur under the high pressures of Venus's deep atmosphere, possibly by molecular diffusion, or by natural density-driven convection. If so, the amount of nitrogen in the atmosphere of Venus is 15% lower than commonly assumed. We suggest that similar density-driven separation could occur in other massive planetary atmospheres.

M. Lefèvre, A. Spiga, and S. Lebonnois. Three-dimensional turbulence-resolving modeling of the Venusian cloud layer and induced gravity waves. Journal of Geophysical Research (Planets), 122:134-149, 2017. [ bib | DOI | ADS link ]

The impact of the cloud convective layer of the atmosphere of Venus on the global circulation remains unclear. The recent observations of gravity waves at the top of the cloud by the Venus Express mission provided some answers. These waves are not resolved at the scale of global circulation models (GCM); therefore, we developed an unprecedented 3-D turbulence-resolving large-eddy simulations (LES) Venusian model using the Weather Research and Forecast terrestrial model. The forcing consists of three different heating rates: two radiative ones for solar and infrared and one associated with the adiabatic cooling/warming of the global circulation. The rates are extracted from the Laboratoire de Météorlogie Dynamique Venus GCM using two different cloud models. Thus, we are able to characterize the convection and associated gravity waves in function of latitude and local time. To assess the impact of the global circulation on the convective layer, we used rates from a 1-D radiative-convective model. The resolved layer, taking place between 1.0 × 105 and 3.8 × 104 Pa (48-53 km), is organized as polygonal closed cells of about 10 km wide with vertical wind of several meters per second. The convection emits gravity waves both above and below the convective layer leading to temperature perturbations of several tenths of kelvin with vertical wavelength between 1 and 3 km and horizontal wavelength from 1 to 10 km. The thickness of the convective layer and the amplitudes of waves are consistent with observations, though slightly underestimated. The global dynamics heating greatly modify the convective layer.

G. Gilli, S. Lebonnois, F. González-Galindo, M. A. López-Valverde, A. Stolzenbach, F. Lefèvre, J. Y. Chaufray, and F. Lott. Thermal structure of the upper atmosphere of Venus simulated by a ground-to-thermosphere GCM. Icarus, 281:55-72, 2017. [ bib | DOI | ADS link ]

We present here the thermal structure of the upper atmosphere of Venus predicted by a full self-consistent Venus General Circulation Model (VGCM) developed at Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique (LMD) and extended up to the thermosphere of the planet. Physical and photochemical processes relevant at those altitudes, plus a non-orographic GW parameterisation, have been added. All those improvements make the LMD-VGCM the only existing ground-to-thermosphere 3D model for Venus: a unique tool to investigate the atmosphere of Venus and to support the exploration of the planet by remote sounding. The aim of this paper is to present the model reference results, to describe the role of radiative, photochemical and dynamical effects in the observed thermal structure in the upper mesosphere/lower thermosphere of the planet. The predicted thermal structure shows a succession of warm and cold layers, as recently observed. A cooling trend with increasing latitudes is found during daytime at all altitudes, while at nighttime the trend is inverse above about 110 km, with an atmosphere up to 15 K warmer towards the pole. The latitudinal variation is even smaller at the terminator, in agreement with observations. Below about 110 km, a nighttime warm layer whose intensity decreases with increasing latitudes is predicted by our GCM. A comparison of model results with a selection of recent measurements shows an overall good agreement in terms of trends and order of magnitude. Significant data-model discrepancies may be also discerned. Among them, thermospheric temperatures are about 40-50 K colder and up to 30 K warmer than measured at terminator and at nighttime, respectively. The altitude layer of the predicted mesospheric local maximum (between 100 and 120 km) is also higher than observed. Possible interpretations are discussed and several sensitivity tests performed to understand the data-model discrepancies and to propose future model improvements.

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.

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.

S. Lebonnois, V. Eymet, C. Lee, and J. Vatant d'Ollone. Analysis of the radiative budget of the Venusian atmosphere based on infrared Net Exchange Rate formalism. Journal of Geophysical Research (Planets), 120:1186-1200, 2015. [ bib | DOI | ADS link ]

A detailed one-dimensional analysis of the energy balance in Venus atmosphere is proposed in this work, based on the Net Exchange Rate formalism that allows the identification in each altitude region of the dominant energy exchanges controlling the temperature. Well-known parameters that control the temperature profile are the solar flux deposition and the cloud particle distribution. Balance between solar heating and infrared energy exchanges is analyzed for each region: upper atmosphere (from cloud top to 100 km), upper cloud, middle cloud, cloud base, and deep atmosphere (cloud base to surface). The energy accumulated below the clouds is transferred to the cloud base through infrared windows, mostly at 3-4 μm and 5-7 μm. The continuum opacity in these spectral regions is not well known for the hot temperatures and large pressures of Venus's deep atmosphere but strongly affects the temperature profile from cloud base to surface. From cloud base, upward transport of energy goes through convection and short-range radiative exchanges up to the middle cloud where the atmosphere is thin enough in the 20-30 μm window to cool directly to space. Total opacity in this spectral window between the 15 μm CO2 band and the CO2 collision-induced absorption has a strong impact on the temperature in the cloud convective layer. Improving our knowledge of the gas opacities in these different windows through new laboratory measurements or ab initio computations, as well as improving the constraints on cloud opacities would help to separate gas and cloud contributions and secure a better understanding of Venus's atmosphere energy balance.

D. Grassi, R. Politi, N. I. Ignatiev, C. Plainaki, S. Lebonnois, P. Wolkenberg, L. Montabone, A. Migliorini, G. Piccioni, and P. Drossart. The Venus nighttime atmosphere as observed by the VIRTIS-M instrument. Average fields from the complete infrared data set. Journal of Geophysical Research (Planets), 119:837-849, 2014. [ bib | DOI | ADS link ]

We present and discuss here the average fields of the Venus atmosphere derived from the nighttime observations in the 1960-2350 cm-1 spectral range by the VIRTIS-M instrument on board the Venus Express satellite. These fields include: (a) the air temperatures in the 1-100 mbar pressure range (˜85-65 km above the surface), (b) the altitude of the clouds top, and (c) the average CO mixing ratio. A new retrieval code based on the Bayesian formalism has been developed and validated on simulated observations, to statistically assess the retrieval capabilities of the scheme once applied to the VIRTIS data. The same code has then been used to process the entire VIRTIS-M data set. Resulting individual retrievals have been binned on the basis of local time and latitude, to create average fields. Air temperature fields confirm the general trends previously reported in Grassi et al. (2010), using a simplified retrieval scheme and a more limited data set. At the lowest altitudes probed by VIRTIS (˜65 km), air temperatures are strongly asymmetric around midnight, with a pronounced minima at 3LT, 70degS. Moving to higher levels, the air temperatures first become more uniform in local time (˜75 km), then display a colder region on the evening side at the upper boundary of VIRTIS sensitivity range (˜80 km). As already shown by Ignatiev et al. (2008) for the dayside, the cloud effective altitude increases monotonically from the south pole to the equator. However, the variations observed in night data are consistent with an overall variation of just 1 km, much smaller than the 4 km reported for the dayside. The cloud altitudes appear slightly higher on the evening side. Both observations are consistent with a less vigorous meridional circulation on the nightside of the planet. Carbon monoxide is not strongly constrained by the VIRTIS-M data. However, average fields present a clear maximum of 80 ppm around 60degS, well above the retrieval uncertainty. Once the intrinsic low sensitivity of VIRTIS data in the region of cold collar is kept in mind, this datum is consistent with a [CO] enrichment toward the poles driven by meridional circulation.

E. Marcq and S. Lebonnois. Simulations of the latitudinal variability of CO-like and OCS-like passive tracers below the clouds of Venus using the Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique GCM. Journal of Geophysical Research (Planets), 118:1983-1990, 2013. [ bib | DOI | ADS link ]

The lower atmosphere of Venus below the clouds is a transitional region between the relatively calm lowermost scale height and the superrotating atmosphere in the cloud region and above. Any observational constraint is then welcome to help in the development of general circulation models of Venus, a difficult task considering the thickness of its atmosphere. Starting from a state-of-the-art 3-D Venus General Circulation Model (GCM), we have included passive tracers in order to investigate the latitudinal variability of two minor gaseous species, carbonyl sulfide (OCS) and carbon monoxide (CO), whose vertical profiles and mixing ratios are known to vary with latitude between 30 and 40km. The relaxation to chemical equilibrium is crudely parametrized through a vertically uniform time scale τ. A satisfactory agreement with available observations is obtained with 108CO5108 s and 107OCS108 s. These results, in addition to validating the general circulation below the clouds, are also helpful in characterizing the chemical kinetics of Venus' atmosphere. This complements the much more sophisticated chemical models which focus more on thermodynamical equilibrium.

C. F. Wilson, E. Chassefière, E. Hinglais, K. H. Baines, T. S. Balint, J.-J. Berthelier, J. Blamont, G. Durry, C. S. Ferencz, R. E. Grimm, T. Imamura, J.-L. Josset, F. Leblanc, S. Lebonnois, J. J. Leitner, S. S. Limaye, B. Marty, E. Palomba, S. V. Pogrebenko, S. C. R. Rafkin, D. L. Talboys, R. Wieler, L. V. Zasova, and C. Szopa. The 2010 European Venus Explorer (EVE) mission proposal. Experimental Astronomy, 33:305-335, 2012. [ bib | DOI | ADS link ]

The European Venus Explorer (EVE) mission described in this paper was proposed in December 2010 to ESA as an `M-class' mission under the Cosmic Vision programme. It consists of a single balloon platform floating in the middle of the main convective cloud layer of Venus at an altitude of 55 km, where temperatures and pressures are benign (25degC and 0.5 bar). The balloon float lifetime would be at least 10 Earth days, long enough to guarantee at least one full circumnavigation of the planet. This offers an ideal platform for the two main science goals of the mission: study of the current climate through detailed characterization of cloud-level atmosphere, and investigation of the formation and evolution of Venus, through careful measurement of noble gas isotopic abundances. These investigations would provide key data for comparative planetology of terrestrial planets in our solar system and beyond.

A. Migliorini, D. Grassi, L. Montabone, S. Lebonnois, P. Drossart, and G. Piccioni. Investigation of air temperature on the nightside of Venus derived from VIRTIS-H on board Venus-Express. Icarus, 217:640-647, 2012. [ bib | DOI | ADS link ]

We present the spatial distribution of air temperature on Venus' night side, as observed by the high spectral resolution channel of VIRTIS (Visible and Infrared Thermal Imaging Spectrometer), or VIRTIS-H, on board the ESA mission Venus Express. The present work extends the investigation of the average thermal fields in the northern hemisphere of Venus, by including the VIRTIS-H data. We show results in the pressure range of 100-4 mbar, which corresponds to the altitude range of 65-80 km. With these new retrievals, we are able to compare the thermal structure of the Venus' mesosphere in both hemispheres. The major thermal features reported in previous investigations, i.e. the cold collar at about 65-70degS latitude, 100 mbar pressure level, and the asymmetry between the evening and morning sides, are confirmed here. By comparing the temperatures retrieved by the VIRTIS spectrometer in the North and South we find that similarities exist between the two hemispheres. Solar thermal tides are clearly visible in the average temperature fields. To interpret the thermal tide signals (otherwise impossible without day site observations), we apply model simulations using the Venus global circulation model Venus GCM (Lebonnois, S., Hourdin, F., Forget, F., Eymet, V., Fournier, R. [2010b]. International Venus Conference, Aussois, 20-26 June 2010) of the Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique (LMD). We suggest that the signal detected at about 60-70deg latitude and pressure of 100 mbar is a diurnal component, while those located at equatorial latitudes are semi-diurnal. Other tide-related features are clearly identified in the upper levels of the atmosphere.

L. Cottereau, N. Rambaux, S. Lebonnois, and J. Souchay. The various contributions in Venus rotation rate and LOD. Astronomy Astrophysics, 531:A45, 2011. [ bib | DOI | arXiv | ADS link ]

Context. Thanks to the Venus Express Mission, new data on the properties of Venus could be obtained, in particular concerning its rotation. <BR /> Aims: In view of these upcoming results, the purpose of this paper is to determine and compare the major physical processes influencing the rotation of Venus and, more particularly, the angular rotation rate. <BR /> Methods: Applying models already used for Earth, the effect of the triaxiality of a rigid Venus on its period of rotation are computed. Then the variations of Venus rotation caused by the elasticity, the atmosphere, and the core of the planet are evaluated. <BR /> Results: Although the largest irregularities in the rotation rate of the Earth on short time scales are caused by its atmosphere and elastic deformations, we show that the irregularities for Venus are dominated by the tidal torque exerted by the Sun on its solid body. Indeed, as Venus has a slow rotation, these effects have a large amplitude of two minutes of time (mn). These variations in the rotation rate are greater than the one induced by atmospheric wind variations that can reach 25-50 s of time (s), depending on the simulation used. The variations due to the core effects that vary with its size between 3 and 20 s are smaller. Compared to these effects, the influence of the elastic deformation caused by the zonal tidal potential is negligible. <BR /> Conclusions: As the variations in the rotation of Venus reported here are close to 3 mn peak to peak, they should influence past, present, and future observations, thereby providing further constraints on the planet's internal structure and atmosphere.

H. F. Parish, G. Schubert, C. Covey, R. L. Walterscheid, A. Grossman, and S. Lebonnois. Decadal variations in a Venus general circulation model. Icarus, 212:42-65, 2011. [ bib | DOI | ADS link ]

The Community Atmosphere Model (CAM), a 3-dimensional Earth-based climate model, has been modified to simulate the dynamics of the Venus atmosphere. The most current finite volume version of CAM is used with Earth-related processes removed, parameters appropriate for Venus introduced, and some basic physics approximations adopted. A simplified Newtonian cooling approximation has been used for the radiation scheme. We use a high resolution (1deg by 1deg in latitude and longitude) to take account of small-scale dynamical processes that might be important on Venus. A Rayleigh friction approach is used at the lower boundary to represent surface drag, and a similar approach is implemented in the uppermost few model levels providing a sponge layer to prevent wave reflection from the upper boundary. The simulations generate superrotation with wind velocities comparable to those measured in the Venus atmosphere by probes and around 50-60% of those measured by cloud tracking. At cloud heights and above the atmosphere is always superrotating with mid-latitude zonal jets that wax and wane on an approximate 10 year cycle. However, below the clouds, the zonal winds vary periodically on a decadal timescale between superrotation and subrotation. Both subrotating and superrotating mid-latitude jets are found in the approximate 40-60 km altitude range. The growth and decay of the sub-cloud level jets also occur on the decadal timescale. Though subrotating zonal winds are found below the clouds, the total angular momentum of the atmosphere is always in the sense of superrotation. The global relative angular momentum of the atmosphere oscillates with an amplitude of about 5% on the approximate 10 year timescale. Symmetric instability in the near surface equatorial atmosphere might be the source of the decadal oscillation in the atmospheric state. Analyses of angular momentum transport show that all the jets are built up by poleward transport by a meridional circulation while angular momentum is redistributed to lower latitudes primarily by transient eddies. Possible changes in the structure of Venus cloud level mid-latitude jets measured by Mariner 10, Pioneer Venus, and Venus Express suggest that a cyclic variation similar to that found in the model might occur in the real Venus atmosphere, although no subrotating winds below the cloud level have been observed to date. Venus atmosphere must be observed over multi-year timescales and below the clouds if we are to understand its dynamics.

D. Grassi, A. Migliorini, L. Montabone, S. Lebonnois, A. Cardesìn-Moinelo, G. Piccioni, P. Drossart, and L. V. Zasova. Thermal structure of Venusian nighttime mesosphere as observed by VIRTIS-Venus Express. Journal of Geophysical Research (Planets), 115:E09007, 2010. [ bib | DOI | ADS link ]

The mapping IR channel of the Visual and Infrared Thermal Imaging Spectrometer (VIRTIS-M) on board the Venus Express spacecraft observes the CO2 band at 4.3 μm at a spectral resolution adequate to retrieve the atmospheric temperature profiles in the 65-96 km altitude range. Observations acquired in the period June 2006 to July 2008 were used to derive average temperature fields as a function of latitude, subsolar longitude (i.e., local time, LT), and pressure. Coverage presented here is limited to the nighttime because of the adverse effects of daytime non-LTE emission on the retrieval procedure and to southernmost latitudes because of the orientation of the Venus-Express orbit. Maps of air temperature variability are also presented as the standard deviation of the population included in each averaging bin. At the 100 mbar level (about 65 km above the reference surface), temperatures tend to decrease from the evening to the morning side despite a local maximum observed around 20-21LT. The cold collar is evident around 65S, with a minimum temperature at 3LT. Moving to higher altitudes, local time trends become less evident at 12.6 mbar (about 75 km) where the temperature monotonically increases from middle latitudes to the southern pole. Nonetheless, at this pressure level, two weaker local time temperature minima are observed at 23LT and 2LT equatorward of 60S. Local time trends in temperature reverse about 85 km, where the morning side is the warmer. The variability at the 100 mbar level is maximum around 80S and stronger toward the morning side. Moving to higher altitudes, the morning side always shows the stronger variability. Southward of 60S, standard deviation presents minimum values around 12.6 mbar for all the local times.

S. Lebonnois, F. Hourdin, V. Eymet, A. Crespin, R. Fournier, and F. Forget. Superrotation of Venus' atmosphere analyzed with a full general circulation model. Journal of Geophysical Research (Planets), 115:E06006, 2010. [ bib | DOI | ADS link ]

A general circulation model (GCM) has been developed for the Venus atmosphere, from the surface up to 100 km altitude, based on the GCM developed for Earth at our laboratory. Key features of this new GCM include topography, diurnal cycle, dependence of the specific heat on temperature, and a consistent radiative transfer module based on net exchange rate matrices. This allows a consistent computation of the temperature field, in contrast to previous GCMs of Venus atmosphere that used simplified temperature forcing. The circulation is analyzed after 350 Venus days (111 Earth years). Superrotation is obtained above roughly 40 km altitude. Below, the zonal wind remains very small compared to observed values, which is a major pending question. The meridional circulation consists of equator-to-pole cells, the dominant one being located within the cloud layers. The modeled temperature structure is globally consistent with observations, though discrepancies persist in the stability of the lowest layers and equator-pole temperature contrast within the clouds (10 K in the model compared to the observed 40 K). In agreement with observational data, a convective layer is found between the base of the clouds (around 47 km) and the middle of the clouds (55-60 km altitude). The transport of angular momentum is analyzed, and comparison between the reference simulation and a simulation without diurnal cycle illustrates the role played by thermal tides in the equatorial region. Without diurnal cycle, the Gierasch-Rossow-Williams mechanism controls angular momentum transport. The diurnal tides add a significant downward transport of momentum in the equatorial region, causing low latitude momentum accumulation.

V. Eymet, R. Fournier, J.-L. Dufresne, S. Lebonnois, F. Hourdin, and M. A. Bullock. Net exchange parameterization of thermal infrared radiative transfer in Venus' atmosphere. Journal of Geophysical Research (Planets), 114:E11008, 2009. [ bib | DOI | ADS link ]

Thermal radiation within Venus atmosphere is analyzed in close details. Prominent features are identified, which are then used to design a parameterization (a highly simplified and yet accurate enough model) to be used in General Circulation Models. The analysis is based on a net exchange formulation, using a set of gaseous and cloud optical data chosen among available referenced data. The accuracy of the proposed parameterization methodology is controlled against Monte Carlo simulations, assuming that the optical data are exact. Then, the accuracy level corresponding to our present optical data choice is discussed by comparison with available observations, concentrating on the most unknown aspects of Venus thermal radiation, namely the deep atmosphere opacity and the cloud composition and structure.

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.

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.

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 ]

J.-L. Bertaux, A.-C. Vandaele, O. Korablev, E. Villard, A. Fedorova, D. Fussen, E. Quémerais, D. Belyaev, A. Mahieux, F. Montmessin, C. Muller, E. Neefs, D. Nevejans, V. Wilquet, J. P. Dubois, A. Hauchecorne, A. Stepanov, I. Vinogradov, A. Rodin, J.-L. Bertaux, D. Nevejans, O. Korablev, F. Montmessin, A.-C. Vandaele, A. Fedorova, M. Cabane, E. Chassefière, J. Y. Chaufray, E. Dimarellis, J. P. Dubois, A. Hauchecorne, F. Leblanc, F. Lefèvre, P. Rannou, E. Quémerais, E. Villard, D. Fussen, C. Muller, E. Neefs, E. van Ransbeeck, V. Wilquet, A. Rodin, A. Stepanov, I. Vinogradov, L. Zasova, F. Forget, S. Lebonnois, D. Titov, S. Rafkin, G. Durry, J. C. Gérard, and B. Sandel. A warm layer in Venus' cryosphere and high-altitude measurements of HF, HCl, H2O and HDO. Nature, 450:646-649, 2007. [ bib | DOI | ADS link ]

Venus has thick clouds of H2SO4 aerosol particles extending from altitudes of 40 to 60km. The 60-100km region (the mesosphere) is a transition region between the 4day retrograde superrotation at the top of the thick clouds and the solar-antisolar circulation in the thermosphere (above 100km), which has upwelling over the subsolar point and transport to the nightside. The mesosphere has a light haze of variable optical thickness, with CO, SO2, HCl, HF, H2O and HDO as the most important minor gaseous constituents, but the vertical distribution of the haze and molecules is poorly known because previous descent probes began their measurements at or below 60km. Here we report the detection of an extensive layer of warm air at altitudes 90-120km on the night side that we interpret as the result of adiabatic heating during air subsidence. Such a strong temperature inversion was not expected, because the night side of Venus was otherwise so cold that it was named the `cryosphere' above 100km. We also measured the mesospheric distributions of HF, HCl, H2O and HDO. HCl is less abundant than reported 40years ago. HDO/H2O is enhanced by a factor of ˜2.5 with respect to the lower atmosphere, and there is a general depletion of H2O around 80-90km for which we have no explanation.

P. Drossart, G. Piccioni, J. C. Gérard, M. A. Lopez-Valverde, A. Sanchez-Lavega, L. Zasova, R. Hueso, F. W. Taylor, B. Bézard, A. Adriani, F. Angrilli, G. Arnold, K. H. Baines, G. Bellucci, J. Benkhoff, J. P. Bibring, A. Blanco, M. I. Blecka, R. W. Carlson, A. Coradini, A. di Lellis, T. Encrenaz, S. Erard, S. Fonti, V. Formisano, T. Fouchet, R. Garcia, R. Haus, J. Helbert, N. I. Ignatiev, P. Irwin, Y. Langevin, S. Lebonnois, D. Luz, L. Marinangeli, V. Orofino, A. V. Rodin, M. C. Roos-Serote, B. Saggin, D. M. Stam, D. Titov, G. Visconti, M. Zambelli, C. Tsang, E. Ammannito, A. Barbis, R. Berlin, C. Bettanini, A. Boccaccini, G. Bonnello, M. Bouyé, F. Capaccioni, A. Cardesin, F. Carraro, G. Cherubini, M. Cosi, M. Dami, M. de Nino, D. Del Vento, M. di Giampietro, A. Donati, O. Dupuis, S. Espinasse, A. Fabbri, A. Fave, I. Ficai Veltroni, G. Filacchione, K. Garceran, Y. Ghomchi, M. Giustizi, B. Gondet, Y. Hello, F. Henry, S. Hofer, G. Huntzinger, J. Kachlicki, R. Knoll, D. Kouach, A. Mazzoni, R. Melchiorri, G. Mondello, F. Monti, C. Neumann, F. Nuccilli, J. Parisot, C. Pasqui, S. Perferi, G. Peter, A. Piacentino, C. Pompei, J.-M. Réess, J.-P. Rivet, A. Romano, N. Russ, M. Santoni, A. Scarpelli, A. Sémery, A. Soufflot, D. Stefanovitch, E. Suetta, F. Tarchi, N. Tonetti, F. Tosi, and B. Ulmer. A dynamic upper atmosphere of Venus as revealed by VIRTIS on Venus Express. Nature, 450:641-645, 2007. [ bib | DOI | ADS link ]

The upper atmosphere of a planet is a transition region in which energy is transferred between the deeper atmosphere and outer space. Molecular emissions from the upper atmosphere (90-120km altitude) of Venus can be used to investigate the energetics and to trace the circulation of this hitherto little-studied region. Previous spacecraft and ground-based observations of infrared emission from CO2, O2 and NO have established that photochemical and dynamic activity controls the structure of the upper atmosphere of Venus. These data, however, have left unresolved the precise altitude of the emission owing to a lack of data and of an adequate observing geometry. Here we report measurements of day-side CO2 non-local thermodynamic equilibrium emission at 4.3m, extending from 90 to 120km altitude, and of night-side O2 emission extending from 95 to 100km. The CO2 emission peak occurs at ˜115km and varies with solar zenith angle over a range of ˜10km. This confirms previous modelling, and permits the beginning of a systematic study of the variability of the emission. The O2 peak emission happens at 96km+/-1km, which is consistent with three-body recombination of oxygen atoms transported from the day side by a global thermospheric sub-solar to anti-solar circulation, as previously predicted.

G. Piccioni, P. Drossart, A. Sanchez-Lavega, R. Hueso, F. W. Taylor, C. F. Wilson, D. Grassi, L. Zasova, M. Moriconi, A. Adriani, S. Lebonnois, A. Coradini, B. Bézard, F. Angrilli, G. Arnold, K. H. Baines, G. Bellucci, J. Benkhoff, J. P. Bibring, A. Blanco, M. I. Blecka, R. W. Carlson, A. di Lellis, T. Encrenaz, S. Erard, S. Fonti, V. Formisano, T. Fouchet, R. Garcia, R. Haus, J. Helbert, N. I. Ignatiev, P. G. J. Irwin, Y. Langevin, M. A. Lopez-Valverde, D. Luz, L. Marinangeli, V. Orofino, A. V. Rodin, M. C. Roos-Serote, B. Saggin, D. M. Stam, D. Titov, G. Visconti, M. Zambelli, E. Ammannito, A. Barbis, R. Berlin, C. Bettanini, A. Boccaccini, G. Bonnello, M. Bouye, F. Capaccioni, A. Cardesin Moinelo, F. Carraro, G. Cherubini, M. Cosi, M. Dami, M. de Nino, D. Del Vento, M. di Giampietro, A. Donati, O. Dupuis, S. Espinasse, A. Fabbri, A. Fave, I. F. Veltroni, G. Filacchione, K. Garceran, Y. Ghomchi, M. Giustini, B. Gondet, Y. Hello, F. Henry, S. Hofer, G. Huntzinger, J. Kachlicki, R. Knoll, K. Driss, A. Mazzoni, R. Melchiorri, G. Mondello, F. Monti, C. Neumann, F. Nuccilli, J. Parisot, C. Pasqui, S. Perferi, G. Peter, A. Piacentino, C. Pompei, J.-M. Reess, J.-P. Rivet, A. Romano, N. Russ, M. Santoni, A. Scarpelli, A. Semery, A. Soufflot, D. Stefanovitch, E. Suetta, F. Tarchi, N. Tonetti, F. Tosi, and B. Ulmer. South-polar features on Venus similar to those near the north pole. Nature, 450:637-640, 2007. [ bib | DOI | ADS link ]

Venus has no seasons, slow rotation and a very massive atmosphere, which is mainly carbon dioxide with clouds primarily of sulphuric acid droplets. Infrared observations by previous missions to Venus revealed a bright `dipole' feature surrounded by a cold `collar' at its north pole. The polar dipole is a `double-eye' feature at the centre of a vast vortex that rotates around the pole, and is possibly associated with rapid downwelling. The polar cold collar is a wide, shallow river of cold air that circulates around the polar vortex. One outstanding question has been whether the global circulation was symmetric, such that a dipole feature existed at the south pole. Here we report observations of Venus' south-polar region, where we have seen clouds with morphology much like those around the north pole, but rotating somewhat faster than the northern dipole. The vortex may extend down to the lower cloud layers that lie at about 50km height and perhaps deeper. The spectroscopic properties of the clouds around the south pole are compatible with a sulphuric acid composition.

J.-L. Bertaux, D. Nevejans, O. Korablev, E. Villard, E. Quémerais, E. Neefs, F. Montmessin, F. Leblanc, J. P. Dubois, E. Dimarellis, A. Hauchecorne, F. Lefèvre, P. Rannou, J. Y. Chaufray, M. Cabane, G. Cernogora, G. Souchon, F. Semelin, A. Reberac, E. Van Ransbeek, S. Berkenbosch, R. Clairquin, C. Muller, F. Forget, F. Hourdin, O. Talagrand, A. Rodin, A. Fedorova, A. Stepanov, I. Vinogradov, A. Kiselev, Y. Kalinnikov, G. Durry, B. Sandel, A. Stern, and J. C. Gérard. SPICAV on Venus Express: Three spectrometers to study the global structure and composition of the Venus atmosphere. Planetary and Space Science, 55:1673-1700, 2007. [ bib | DOI | ADS link ]

Spectroscopy for the investigation of the characteristics of the atmosphere of Venus (SPICAV) is a suite of three spectrometers in the UV and IR range with a total mass of 13.9 kg flying on the Venus Express (VEX) orbiter, dedicated to the study of the atmosphere of Venus from ground level to the outermost hydrogen corona at more than 40,000 km. It is derived from the SPICAM instrument already flying on board Mars Express (MEX) with great success, with the addition of a new IR high-resolution spectrometer, solar occultation IR (SOIR), working in the solar occultation mode. The instrument consists of three spectrometers and a simple data processing unit providing the interface of these channels with the spacecraft. A UV spectrometer (118-320 nm, resolution 1.5 nm) is identical to the MEX version. It is dedicated to nadir viewing, limb viewing and vertical profiling by stellar and solar occultation. In nadir orientation, SPICAV UV will analyse the albedo spectrum (solar light scattered back from the clouds) to retrieve SO 2, and the distribution of the UV-blue absorber (of still unknown origin) on the dayside with implications for cloud structure and atmospheric dynamics. On the nightside, γ and δ bands of NO will be studied, as well as emissions produced by electron precipitations. In the stellar occultation mode the UV sensor will measure the vertical profiles of CO 2, temperature, SO 2, SO, clouds and aerosols. The density/temperature profiles obtained with SPICAV will constrain and aid in the development of dynamical atmospheric models, from cloud top (60 km) to 160 km in the atmosphere. This is essential for future missions that would rely on aerocapture and aerobraking. UV observations of the upper atmosphere will allow studies of the ionosphere through the emissions of CO, CO +, and CO 2+, and its direct interaction with the solar wind. It will study the H corona, with its two different scale heights, and it will allow a better understanding of escape mechanisms and estimates of their magnitude, crucial for insight into the long-term evolution of the atmosphere. The SPICAV VIS-IR sensor (0.7-1.7 μm, resolution 0.5-1.2 nm) employs a pioneering technology: an acousto-optical tunable filter (AOTF). On the nightside, it will study the thermal emission peeping through the clouds, complementing the observations of both VIRTIS and Planetary Fourier Spectrometer (PFS) on VEX. In solar occultation mode this channel will study the vertical structure of H 2O, CO 2, and aerosols. The SOIR spectrometer is a new solar occultation IR spectrometer in the range λ=2.2-4.3 μm, with a spectral resolution λ/Δ λ15,000, the highest on board VEX. This new concept includes a combination of an echelle grating and an AOTF crystal to sort out one order at a time. The main objective is to measure HDO and H 2O in solar occultation, in order to characterize the escape of D atoms from the upper atmosphere and give more insight about the evolution of water on Venus. It will also study isotopes of CO 2 and minor species, and provides a sensitive search for new species in the upper atmosphere of Venus. It will attempt to measure also the nightside emission, which would allow a sensitive measurement of HDO in the lower atmosphere, to be compared to the ratio in the upper atmosphere, and possibly discover new minor atmospheric constituents.

P. Drossart, G. Piccioni, A. Adriani, F. Angrilli, G. Arnold, K. H. Baines, G. Bellucci, J. Benkhoff, B. Bézard, J.-P. Bibring, A. Blanco, M. I. Blecka, R. W. Carlson, A. Coradini, A. Di Lellis, T. Encrenaz, S. Erard, S. Fonti, V. Formisano, T. Fouchet, R. Garcia, R. Haus, J. Helbert, N. I. Ignatiev, P. G. J. Irwin, Y. Langevin, S. Lebonnois, M. A. Lopez-Valverde, D. Luz, L. Marinangeli, V. Orofino, A. V. Rodin, M. C. Roos-Serote, B. Saggin, A. Sanchez-Lavega, D. M. Stam, F. W. Taylor, D. Titov, G. Visconti, M. Zambelli, R. Hueso, C. C. C. Tsang, C. F. Wilson, and T. Z. Afanasenko. Scientific goals for the observation of Venus by VIRTIS on ESA/Venus express mission. Planetary and Space Science, 55:1653-1672, 2007. [ bib | DOI | ADS link ]

The Visible and Infrared Thermal Imaging Spectrometer (VIRTIS) on board the ESA/Venus Express mission has technical specifications well suited for many science objectives of Venus exploration. VIRTIS will both comprehensively explore a plethora of atmospheric properties and processes and map optical properties of the surface through its three channels, VIRTIS-M-vis (imaging spectrometer in the 0.3-1 μm range), VIRTIS-M-IR (imaging spectrometer in the 1-5 μm range) and VIRTIS-H (aperture high-resolution spectrometer in the 2-5 μm range). The atmospheric composition below the clouds will be repeatedly measured in the night side infrared windows over a wide range of latitudes and longitudes, thereby providing information on Venus's chemical cycles. In particular, CO, H 2O, OCS and SO 2 can be studied. The cloud structure will be repeatedly mapped from the brightness contrasts in the near-infrared night side windows, providing new insights into Venusian meteorology. The global circulation and local dynamics of Venus will be extensively studied from infrared and visible spectral images. The thermal structure above the clouds will be retrieved in the night side using the 4.3 μm fundamental band of CO 2. The surface of Venus is detectable in the short-wave infrared windows on the night side at 1.01, 1.10 and 1.18 μm, providing constraints on surface properties and the extent of active volcanism. Many more tentative studies are also possible, such as lightning detection, the composition of volcanic emissions, and mesospheric wave propagation.

V. Formisano, F. Angrilli, G. Arnold, S. Atreya, K. H. Baines, G. Bellucci, B. Bezard, F. Billebaud, D. Biondi, M. I. Blecka, L. Colangeli, L. Comolli, D. Crisp, M. D'Amore, T. Encrenaz, A. Ekonomov, F. Esposito, C. Fiorenza, S. Fonti, M. Giuranna, D. Grassi, B. Grieger, A. Grigoriev, J. Helbert, H. Hirsch, N. Ignatiev, A. Jurewicz, I. Khatuntsev, S. Lebonnois, E. Lellouch, A. Mattana, A. Maturilli, E. Mencarelli, M. Michalska, J. Lopez Moreno, B. Moshkin, F. Nespoli, Y. Nikolsky, F. Nuccilli, P. Orleanski, E. Palomba, G. Piccioni, M. Rataj, G. Rinaldi, M. Rossi, B. Saggin, D. Stam, D. Titov, G. Visconti, and L. Zasova. The planetary fourier spectrometer (PFS) onboard the European Venus Express mission. Planetary and Space Science, 54:1298-1314, 2006. [ bib | DOI | ADS link ]

The planetary fourier spectrometer (PFS) for the Venus Express mission is an infrared spectrometer optimized for atmospheric studies. This instrument has a short wavelength (SW) channel that covers the spectral range from 1700 to 11400 cm -1 (0.9-5.5 μm) and a long wavelength (LW) channel that covers 250-1700 cm -1 (5.5-45 μm). Both channels have a uniform spectral resolution of 1.3 cm -1. The instrument field of view FOV is about 1.6 deg (FWHM) for the short wavelength channel and 2.8 deg for the LW channel which corresponds to a spatial resolution of 7 and 12 km when Venus is observed from an altitude of 250 km. PFS can provide unique data necessary to improve our knowledge not only of the atmospheric properties but also surface properties (temperature) and the surface-atmosphere interaction (volcanic activity). PFS works primarily around the pericentre of the orbit, only occasionally observing Venus from larger distances. Each measurements takes 4.5 s, with a repetition time of 11.5 s. By working roughly 1.5 h around pericentre, a total of 460 measurements per orbit will be acquired plus 60 for calibrations. PFS is able to take measurements at all local times, enabling the retrieval of atmospheric vertical temperature profiles on both the day and the night side. The PFS measures a host of atmospheric and surface phenomena on Venus. These include the:(1) thermal surface flux at several wavelengths near 1 μm, with concurrent constraints on surface temperature and emissivity (indicative of composition); (2) the abundances of several highly-diagnostic trace molecular species; (3) atmospheric temperatures from 55 to 100 km altitude; (4) cloud opacities and cloud-tracked winds in the lower-level cloud layers near 50-km altitudes; (5) cloud top pressures of the uppermost haze/cloud region near 70-80 km altitude; and (6) oxygen airglow near the 100 km level. All of these will be observed repeatedly during the 500-day nominal mission of Venus Express to yield an increased understanding of meteorological, dynamical, photochemical, and thermo-chemical processes in the Venus atmosphere. Additionally, PFS will search for and characterize current volcanic activity through spatial and temporal anomalies in both the surface thermal flux and the abundances of volcanic trace species in the lower atmosphere. Measurement of the 15 μm CO 2 band is very important. Its profile gives, by means of a complex temperature profile retrieval technique, the vertical pressure-temperature relation, basis of the global atmospheric study. PFS is made of four modules called O, E, P and S being, respectively, the interferometer and proximity electronics, the digital control unit, the power supply and the pointing device.