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Reappraising the production and transfer of hydrogen atoms from the middle to the upper atmosphere of Mars at times of elevated water vapor

Abstract : Water escape on Mars has recently undergone a paradigm shift with the discovery of unexpected seasonal variations in the population of hydrogen atoms in the exosphere where thermal escape occurs and results in water lost to space. This discovery led to the hypothesis that, contradicting the accepted pathway, atomic hydrogen in the exosphere was not only produced by molecular hydrogen but mostly by high altitude water vapor. Enhanced presence of water at high altitude during southern spring and summer, due to atmospheric warming and intensified transport, favors production of H through photon-induced ion chemistry of water molecules and thus appears to be the main cause of the observed seasonal variability in escaping hydrogen. This hypothesis is supported by the observation of large concentrations of water vapor between 50 km and 150 km during the southern summer solstice and global dust events. Using a simplified yet representative air parcel transport model, we show that in addition to the formation of atomic hydrogen from water photolysis above 80 km, a major fraction of the exospheric hydrogen is formed at altitudes as low as 60 km and is then directly advected to the upper atmosphere. Comparing the injection modes of a variety of events (global dust storm, perihelion periods, regional storm), we conclude that southern spring/summer controls H production and further ascent into the upper atmosphere on the long term with direct implication for water escape.
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Submitted on : Saturday, June 4, 2022 - 7:59:24 PM
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Franck Montmessin, Denis A. Belyaev, Franck Lefèvre, Juan Alday, Margaux Vals, et al.. Reappraising the production and transfer of hydrogen atoms from the middle to the upper atmosphere of Mars at times of elevated water vapor. Journal of Geophysical Research. Planets, Wiley-Blackwell, 2022, 127 (5), pp.e2022JE007217. ⟨10.1029/2022JE007217⟩. ⟨insu-03660797v2⟩

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