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The impact of mesoscale processes on the atmospheric circulation of Mars

Citation

Heavens, Nicholas Gray (2010) The impact of mesoscale processes on the atmospheric circulation of Mars. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. http://resolver.caltech.edu/CaltechTHESIS:04222010-152158923

Abstract

The study of the modern martian atmosphere is (1) a key to the climate of Mars’s past; (2) useful for comparison with other terrestrial planets such as the Earth; and (3) can support hazard analysis and weather forecasting for future exploration and habitation of the planet. Recently, it was found that middle atmospheric downwelling near the south pole during southern winter is much more vigorous than predicted by most Mars general circulation models. This underestimate may be due to models erroneously representing the radiative forcings in the atmosphere due to aerosol and/or the mechanical forcings due to wave breaking. Errors of this kind would influence middle atmospheric dynamics and likely would result from incomplete understanding of lower atmospheric processes such as dust transport. Here, retrievals of vertical profiles of temperature, pressure, dust, and water ice from the Mars Climate Sounder (MCS) on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) are used to characterize the atmospheric circulation of Mars and its forcings. First, I consider the annual cycle of the thermal structure and aerosol distributions of the lower and middle atmosphere and investigate the degree of coupling between the lower and middle atmospheric mean meridional circulations. To evaluate the role of wave breaking, I look for local convective instabilities in the Martian middle atmosphere: a key indicator of saturating vertically propagating waves such as the gravity waves and the thermal tides, which are important sources of wave drag in the Earth’s mesosphere. I then characterize the vertical distribution of dust and its approximate radiative effects during northern spring and summer and show there is usually a maximum in dust mass mixing ratio at ~15—25 km above the tropics, which is not currently simulated by models. Next, I evaluate the relative importance of dust storm activity, pseudo-moist convection due to the solar heating of dust, orographic effects, and scavenging by water ice clouds in producing this maximum. Finally, I show that published models underestimate the thickness and altitude of water ice clouds in northern summer.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Mars; atmosphere; observations; clouds; dust
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Geological and Planetary Sciences
Major Option:Planetary Science
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Yung, Yuk L. (advisor)
  • Richardson, Mark I. (co-advisor)
Thesis Committee:
  • Ingersoll, Andrew P. (chair)
  • Yung, Yuk L.
  • Aharonson, Oded
  • Wennberg, Paul O.
Defense Date:19 April 2010
Author Email:ngheavens (AT) me.com
Funders:
Funding AgencyGrant Number
National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationNMO710947
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:04222010-152158923
Persistent URL:http://resolver.caltech.edu/CaltechTHESIS:04222010-152158923
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:5738
Collection:CaltechTHESIS
Deposited By: Nicholas Heavens
Deposited On:07 May 2010 22:11
Last Modified:08 Jul 2013 21:20

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