Meteorological Variability and the Annual Surface Pressure Cycle on Mars

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  • 1 Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique du CNRS, Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris, France
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Abstract

It is commonly admitted that the seasonal surface pressure cycle, observed on Mars by the two Viking landers, is due to condensation and sublimation of the atmospheric carbon dioxide in the polar caps. A three Martian year numerical simulation has been performed with a Martian General Circulation Model developed from the terrestrial model of the Laboratoire de Météorologic Dynamique. The conditions of the simulation were those of a typical clear-sky situation. The results, validated by comparison to Viking pressure measurements and to temperature fields retrieved from Mariner-9 measurements, show that the pressure cycle depends on the location on the planet. They strongly suggest that, in addition to condensation and sublimation of the atmospheric carbon dioxide, two other effects significantly contribute to the pressure cycle: an orographic effect resulting from the difference in mean height between the two hemispheres, and a dynamical effect resulting from the geostrophic balance between the mass and wind field. In high latitudes, the pressure variation linked to the dynamical effect may have the same magnitude (about 25%) as the global mass variation due to the condensation-sublimation cycle. A shorter dust storm simulation is also in good agreement with observations, in particular as concerns the surface pressure variations and the low-level winds, independently estimated from observations of the bright streaks on the surface of the planet. These results show that the atmospheric mass budget cannot be correctly estimated from local measurements such as Viking measurements.

Abstract

It is commonly admitted that the seasonal surface pressure cycle, observed on Mars by the two Viking landers, is due to condensation and sublimation of the atmospheric carbon dioxide in the polar caps. A three Martian year numerical simulation has been performed with a Martian General Circulation Model developed from the terrestrial model of the Laboratoire de Météorologic Dynamique. The conditions of the simulation were those of a typical clear-sky situation. The results, validated by comparison to Viking pressure measurements and to temperature fields retrieved from Mariner-9 measurements, show that the pressure cycle depends on the location on the planet. They strongly suggest that, in addition to condensation and sublimation of the atmospheric carbon dioxide, two other effects significantly contribute to the pressure cycle: an orographic effect resulting from the difference in mean height between the two hemispheres, and a dynamical effect resulting from the geostrophic balance between the mass and wind field. In high latitudes, the pressure variation linked to the dynamical effect may have the same magnitude (about 25%) as the global mass variation due to the condensation-sublimation cycle. A shorter dust storm simulation is also in good agreement with observations, in particular as concerns the surface pressure variations and the low-level winds, independently estimated from observations of the bright streaks on the surface of the planet. These results show that the atmospheric mass budget cannot be correctly estimated from local measurements such as Viking measurements.

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