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.