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Journal Articles Journal of Geophysical Research. Planets Year : 2023

Modeling Slope Microclimates in the Mars Planetary Climate Model


Abstract A large number of surface features (e.g., frost, gullies, slope streaks, recurring slope lineae) are observed on Martian slopes. Their activity is often associated with the specific microclimates on these slopes, which have been mostly studied with one‐dimensional radiative balance models to date. We develop here a parameterization to simulate these microclimates in 3D Global Climate Models. We first demonstrate that any Martian slope can be thermally represented by a poleward or equatorward slope, that is, the daily average, minimum, and maximum surface temperatures depend on the North‐South component of the slope. Based on this observation, we implement here a subgrid‐scale parameterization to represent slope microclimates (radiative fluxes, volatile condensation, ignoring slope winds for now) in the Mars Planetary Climate Model and validate it through comparisons with surface temperature measurements and frost detections on sloped terrains. With this new model, we show that slope microclimates do not have a significant impact on the seasonal CO2 and H2O cycles on a global scale. Furthermore, short‐scale slopes (i.e., less than ∼1 km in length) do not significantly impact the thermal state of the atmosphere. Ninety‐one percent of the active gullies are found where our model predicts CO2 frost, suggesting that their activity is related to processes involving CO2 ice. However, the low thicknesses (≤tens of cm) predicted at mid‐latitudes rule out mechanisms involving large amounts (∼meters) of ice. This model opens the way to new studies on surface‐atmosphere interactions in present and past climates.
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Dates and versions

hal-04266806 , version 1 (31-10-2023)



L. Lange, F. Forget, E. Dupont, R. Vandemeulebrouck, A. Spiga, et al.. Modeling Slope Microclimates in the Mars Planetary Climate Model. Journal of Geophysical Research. Planets, 2023, 128 (10), ⟨10.1029/2023JE007915⟩. ⟨hal-04266806⟩
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