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Published December 2010 | Published
Journal Article Open

Structure and dynamics of the Martian lower and middle atmosphere as observed by the Mars Climate Sounder: Seasonal variations in zonal mean temperature, dust, and water ice aerosols


The first Martian year and a half of observations by the Mars Climate Sounder aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has revealed new details of the thermal structure and distributions of dust and water ice in the atmosphere. The Martian atmosphere is shown in the observations by the Mars Climate Sounder to vary seasonally between two modes: a symmetrical equinoctial structure with middle atmosphere polar warming and a solstitial structure with an intense middle atmosphere polar warming overlying a deep winter polar vortex. The dust distribution, in particular, is more complex than appreciated before the advent of these high (~5 km) vertical resolution observations, which extend from near the surface to above 80 km and yield 13 dayside and 13 nightside pole-to-pole cross sections each day. Among the new features noted is a persistent maximum in dust mass mixing ratio at 15–25 km above the surface (at least on the nightside) during northern spring and summer. The water ice distribution is very sensitive to the diurnal and seasonal variation of temperature and is a good tracer of the vertically propagating tide.

Additional Information

© 2010 American Geophysical Union. Received 14 June 2010; revised 3 September 2010; accepted 28 September 2010; published 28 December 2010. We would like to thank Tina Pavlicek for her contributions to MCS instrument operations and Mark Apolinski for his work on processing the MCS data. We also wish to thank Wayne Hartford and Mark Foote for their contributions to the design and fabrication of the instrument and the MRO spacecraft operations teams who make this investigation possible. Work at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, was performed under a contract with NASA.

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