Unraveling the Martian water cycle with high-resolution global climate simulations

Abstract : Global climate modeling of the Mars water cycle is usually performed at relatively coarse resolution (200– 300 km), which may not be sufficient to properly represent the impact of waves, fronts, topography effects on the detailed structure of clouds and surface ice deposits. Here, we present new numerical simulations of the annual water cycle performed at a resolution of 1° ×1° (∼ 60 km in latitude). The model includes the radiative effects of clouds, whose influence on the thermal structure and atmospheric dynamics is significant, thus we also examine simulations with inactive clouds to distinguish the direct impact of resolution on circulation and winds from the indirect impact of resolution via water ice clouds. To first order, we find that the high resolution does not dramatically change the behavior of the system, and that simulations performed at ∼ 200 km resolution capture well the behavior of the simulated water cycle and Mars climate. Nevertheless, a detailed comparison between high and low resolution simulations, with reference to observations, reveal several significant changes that impact our understanding of the water cycle active today on Mars. The key northern cap edge dynamics are affected by an increase in baroclinic wave strength, with a complication of northern summer dynamics. South polar frost deposition is modified, with a westward longitudinal shift, since southern dynamics are also influenced. Baroclinic wave mode transitions are observed. New transient phenomena appear, like spiral and streak clouds, already documented in the observations. Atmospheric circulation cells in the polar region exhibit a large variability and are fine structured, with slope winds. Most modeled phenomena affected by high resolution give a picture of a more turbulent planet, inducing further variability. This is challenging for long-period climate studies.
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Alizée Pottier, François Forget, Franck Montmessin, Thomas Navarro, Aymeric Spiga, et al.. Unraveling the Martian water cycle with high-resolution global climate simulations. Icarus, Elsevier, 2017, 291, pp.82-106. ⟨10.1016/j.icarus.2017.02.016⟩. ⟨hal-01497681⟩

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