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Origin and role of water ice clouds in the Martian water cycle as inferred from a general circulation model

Abstract : In this paper, we present the results obtained by the general circulation model developed at the Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique which has been used to simulate the Martian hydrological cycle. Our model, which employs a simplified cloud scheme, reproduces the observed Martian water cycle with unprecedented agreement. The modeled seasonal evolution of cloudiness, which also compares well with data, is described in terms of the meteorological phenomena that control the Martian cloud distribution. Whereas cloud formation in the tropical region results from seasonal changes in the overturning circulation, Polar Hood clouds are mostly driven by variations of atmospheric wave activity. A sensitivity study allows us to quantify the effects of the transport of water ice clouds on the seasonal evolution of the water cycle. The residence time of cloud particles is long enough to allow cloud advection over great distances (typically thousands of kilometers). Despite the relatively low proportion of clouds ($10%) in the total atmospheric inventory of water, their ability to be transported over large distances generally acts at the expense of the north polar cap and generates a water cycle globally wetter by a factor of 2 than a cycle produced by a model neglecting cloud transport. Around aphelion season, clouds modulate the north to south migration of water in a significant fashion and participate just as much as vapor in the cross-equatorial transport of total water. Most of the year, atmospheric waves generate an equatorward motion of water ice clouds near the polar vortex boundaries, partially balancing the opposite poleward flux of water vapor. The combination of both effects delays the return of water to the north polar cap and allows water to build up in the Martian tropics.
Keywords : water cycle clouds Mars
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Franck Montmessin, Francois Forget, Pascal Rannou, Michel Cabane, Robert M. Haberle. Origin and role of water ice clouds in the Martian water cycle as inferred from a general circulation model. Journal of Geophysical Research. Planets, Wiley-Blackwell, 2004, 109 (E10), pp.E10004. ⟨10.1029/2004JE002284⟩. ⟨insu-02897064⟩

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