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The Origins of Long-Term Variability in Martian Upper Atmospheric Densities

Abstract : We quantify and interpret the long-term variability of dayside Martian upper thermosphere and lower exosphere densities within 180-275 km altitudes. Atmospheric CO2, N2, O, and Ar densities are from NASA Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) observations during the time period of 2015-2020 near solar minimum. These neutral measurements, together with contemporaneous solar irradiance measurements at Mars, enable disentanglement of the orbital effect (due to the annual Sun-Mars distance change with solar longitude) and the solar extreme ultraviolet (EUV) effect in atmospheric density variations. The relative importance of these two effects, which is obtained using a statistical method of Dominance Analysis, reveals the competition between the indirect effect of solar infrared (via the upward coupling from the middle atmosphere) and the direct effect of solar EUV (due to local heating). Our results show that, unlike the orbital effect which is relatively constant at low altitudes and then decreases with increasing altitude, the solar EUV effect nearly monotonically increases. These two effects are comparable at high altitudes (about 240/270/205 km for CO2/N2/O). This analysis is extended to include long-term exospheric mass density estimates near 400 km from Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Odyssey data, with a focus on representative solar cycle phases of solar minimum and maximum. It is found that near 400 km, the orbital effect is always a key driver regardless of the solar cycle phase, while the solar EUV effect plays a minor role during solar minimum and is greatly enhanced and slightly exceeds the orbital effect during solar maximum.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, July 19, 2022 - 7:59:25 AM
Last modification on : Wednesday, August 3, 2022 - 3:59:30 AM

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Xiaohua Fang, Jeffrey M. Forbes, Mehdi Benna, Luca Montabone, Shannon Curry, et al.. The Origins of Long-Term Variability in Martian Upper Atmospheric Densities. Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics, 2022, 127, ⟨10.1029/2021JA030145⟩. ⟨insu-03726914⟩

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