Impact of Mars Water Ice Clouds and Thermal Aerosol Enforcement to the Shortscale Climate Dynamics: Evidence from 1-D Model

A.V. Rodin (IKI), R.T. Clancy (Space Science Institute), R.J. Wilson (GFDL), M. Richardson (UCLA), M. Wolff (Space Science Institute), S. Woods (UCLA)

Ground-based observations of Mars atmospheric temperatures, water, and aerosols have suggested that water ice clouds may regulate vertical distribution of dust and, hence, the global radiation balance, with strong seasonal forcing (Clancy et al., 1996). Under specific Martian conditions, condensation of atmospheric water occurs on the dust as Aitken cores, without external sources, dust is efficiently confined below the saturation level of water vapor. This in turn forces the thermal regime and the saturation conditions, particularly around the aphelion northern summer (Clancy et al., 1996).

This effect is studied with two 1-D models, a time marching simulation (time step is 4 min), and reduced local steady-state model. Both models treat aerosol particle microphysics, turbulent transport and thermal enforcement interactively, including radiation transfer consistent with derived aerosol vertical and size distributions. Simulations show that in the aphelion season, when clouds are formed below or near 10 km, strong nonlinearity of cloud thermal feedback results in nonuniqueness of a steady-state solution with water vapor saturation level varying by as high as 5-7 km. Such model behavior appears related to observations of rapid variations of a global-average, lower atmosphere temperature over the planet in northern summer (Clancy, 1997). The stability of thermal equilibrium state is controlled by water vapor abundance and the strength of the dust source at the surface. Time marching simulations provide access to the dynamics of seasonal global dust storm relaxation that may play an important role in interannual climate variations on Mars.


Clancy, R.T., A.W. Grossman, M.J. Wolff, P.B. James, Y.N. Billawala, B.J. Sandor, S.W. Lee, and D.J. Rudy. Water vapor saturation at low altitudes around Mars aphelion: A key to Mars climate? Icarus, 122, 36-62, 1996.