Snow precipitation on Mars driven by cloud-induced night-time convection

Abstract : Although it contains less water vapour than Earth’s atmosphere, the Martian atmosphere hosts clouds. These clouds, composed of water-ice particles, influence the global transport of water vapour and the seasonal variations of ice deposits. However, the influence of water-ice clouds on local weather is unclear: it is thought that Martian clouds are devoid of moist convective motions, and snow precipitation occurs only by the slow sedimentation of individual particles. Here we present numerical simulations of the meteorology in Martian cloudy regions that demonstrate that localized convective snowstorms can occur on Mars. We show that such snowstorms—or ice microbursts—can explain deep night-time mixing layers detected from orbit and precipitation signatures detected below water-ice clouds by the Phoenix lander. In our simulations, convective snowstorms occur only during the Martian night, and result from atmospheric instability due to radiative cooling of water-ice cloud particles. This triggers strong convective plumes within and below clouds, with fast snow precipitation resulting from the vigorous descending currents. Night-time convection in Martian water-ice clouds and the associated snow precipitation lead to transport of water both above and below the mixing layers, and thus would affect Mars’ water cycle past and present, especially under the high-obliquity conditions associated with a more intense water cycle.
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Submitted on : Monday, November 20, 2017 - 4:46:15 PM
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Aymeric Spiga, David P. Hinson, Jean-Baptiste Madeleine, Thomas Navarro, Ehouarn Millour, et al.. Snow precipitation on Mars driven by cloud-induced night-time convection. Nature Geoscience, Nature Publishing Group, 2017, 10 (9), pp.652 - 657. ⟨10.1038/ngeo3008⟩. ⟨insu-01640088⟩



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