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New insights into Martian dust distribution and water-ice cloud microphysics

Abstract : In this paper we use a direct method which combines microphysics and photometric simulations of the Martian atmosphere. This approach allows us to reproduce vertical profiles of the light scattered by the haze at the limb of Mars. Subsequent results are compared to a multiple-color image provided by the Viking Orbiter camera. The ''free parameters'' of our study are related to vertical transport and dust size distribution. A sensitivity study has been conducted, encompassing a relevant range of parameters, in order to obtain the most satisfying multispectral modeled profile with respect to the one inferred from data. Except for an unlikely distribution of submicron particles (r eff $ 0.2 mm), no consistent fit can be obtained. This implies that size distributions of dust suggested by previous studies are not in agreement with the present analysis. This apparent discrepancy can be resolved by adding a separate peak of submicron particles to the size distribution previously extracted from Viking Lander images. Only in that case can spectral and vertical structures of haze be successfully matched. While a bimodal distribution would change the current picture of Martian dust, such distribution is a common representation of soil-derived aerosol size function in Earth deserts. We also attempted to derive information from the cloud shown in the Viking limb image. Our estimates suggest that cloud particle effective radius is around 1.2-1.8 mm, while the cloud visible opacity is 0.02.
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Franck Montmessin, Pascal Rannou, Michel Cabane. New insights into Martian dust distribution and water-ice cloud microphysics. Journal of Geophysical Research. Planets, Wiley-Blackwell, 2002, 107 (E6), pp.5037. ⟨10.1029/2001JE001520⟩. ⟨insu-02897052⟩

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