Welcome to the new version of CaltechAUTHORS. Login is currently restricted to library staff. If you notice any issues, please email coda@library.caltech.edu
Published February 2011 | public
Journal Article

Atmospheric modeling of Mars methane surface releases


We utilize the MarsWRF general circulation model (GCM) to address the behavior of gas plumes in the Martian atmosphere, with the specific goal of characterizing the source of the recently identified methane detection in the Martian atmosphere. These observations have been interpreted as the release of methane from localized surface sources with spatial and temporal variabilities. Due to the limited temporal coverage of ground-based observations, we use a GCM to simulate the development of passive atmospheric plumes over relevant timescales. The observations can be reproduced best if the release occurred just before the time of observation—no more than 1–2 sols earlier—and if this release were nearly instantaneous rather than a slow, steady emission. Furthermore, it requires a source region spanning a broad latitudinal range rather than a point emission. While the accuracy of our conclusions about this specific methane release scenario is limited by the uncertainties inherent in GCM simulations of the Martian atmosphere, our findings regarding generalized plume behavior are robust, and illustrate the potential power of numerical modeling for constraining plume source conditions.

Additional Information

© 2010 Elsevier. Received 21 January 2010; revised 11 May 2010; accepted 1 July 2010. Available online 7 July 2010. The simulations presented in this paper were performed on the supercomputing clusters at both JPL and the Caltech Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences. Work by M. Mischna and M. Allen was performed at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. We wish to acknowledge stimulating discussions with Mike Mumma, Kevin Zahnle and François Forget on earlier versions of this research. Two anonymous reviewers helped to clarify the story and provided excellent feedback.

Additional details

August 22, 2023
October 23, 2023