Structure and dynamics of the convective boundary layer on Mars as inferred from large-eddy simulations and remote-sensing measurements

Spiga, A.; Forget, F.; Lewis, S. R. and Hinson, D. P. (2010). Structure and dynamics of the convective boundary layer on Mars as inferred from large-eddy simulations and remote-sensing measurements. Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, 136(647) pp. 414–428.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/qj.563

Abstract

The structure of the Martian convective boundary layer (BL) is decribed by means of a novel approach involving both modelling and data analysis. Mars Express radio-occultation (RO) temperature profiles are compared to large-eddy simulations (LESs) performed with the Martian mesoscale model. The model combines the Martian radiative transfer, soil and surface layer schemes designed at Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique (LMD) with the most recent version of the Weather Research and Forecast (WRF) fully compressible non-hydrostatic dynamical core. The key roles of the vertical resolution and, to lesser extent, of the domain horizontal extent have been investigated to ensure the robustness of the LES results. The dramatic regional variations of the BL depth are quantitatively reproduced by the Martian LES. Intense BL dynamics are found to underlie the measured depths (up to 9 km): vertical speed up to 20 m s-1, heat flux up to 2.7 K m s-1 and turbulent kinetic energy up to 26 m2 s-2. Under specific conditions, both the model and the measurements show a distinctive positive correlation between surface topography and BL depth. Our interpretation is that, in the tenuous CO2 Martian near-surface environment, the daytime BL is to first order controlled by the infrared radiative heating, fairly independent of elevation, which implies a simple correlation between the BL potential temperature and the inverse pressure ('pressure effect'). No prominent 'pressure effect' is in action on Earth where sensible heat flux dominates the BL energy budget. Both RO observations and numerical simulations confirm the terrain-following behaviour of near-surface temperature on Mars induced by the dominant radiative influence. The contribution of the Martian sensible heat flux is not negligible and results in a given isotherm in the BL being comparatively closer to the ground at higher surface elevation. The strong radiative control of the Martian convective BL implies a generalised formulation for the BL dimensionless quantities. Based on this formulation and the variety of simulated BL depths by the LES, new similarity relationships for the Martian convective BL in quasi-steady midday conditions are derived. Rigorous comparisons between the Martian and terrestrial BL and fast computations of the mean Martian BL turbulent statistics are now made possible by such similarity laws.

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