The water cycle and regolith-atmosphere interaction at Gale crater, Mars

Steele, Liam J.; Balme, Matthew R.; Lewis, Stephen R. and Spiga, Aymeric (2017). The water cycle and regolith-atmosphere interaction at Gale crater, Mars. Icarus, 289 pp. 56–79.



We perform mesoscale simulations of the water cycle in a region around Gale crater, including the diffusion of water vapour in and out of the regolith, and compare our results with measurements from the REMS instrument on board the Curiosity rover. Simulations are performed at three times of year, and show that diffusion in and out of the regolith and adsorption/desorption needs to be taken into account in order to match the diurnal variation of relative humidity measured by REMS. During the evening and night, local downslope flows transport water vapour down the walls of Gale crater. When including regolith-atmosphere interaction, the amount of vapour reaching the crater floor is reduced (by factors of 2–3 depending on season) due to vapour diffusing into the regolith along the crater walls. The transport of vapour into Gale crater is also affected by the regional katabatic flow over the dichotomy boundary, with the largest flux of vapour into the regolith initially occurring on the northern crater wall, and moving to the southern wall by early morning. Upslope winds during the day transport vapour desorbing and mixing out of the regolith up crater walls, where it can then be transported a few hundred metres into the atmosphere at convergence boundaries. Regolith-atmosphere interaction limits the formation of surface ice by reducing water vapour abundances in the lower atmosphere, though in some seasons ice can still form in the early morning on eastern crater walls. Subsurface ice amounts are small in all seasons, with ice only existing in the upper few millimetres of regolith during the night. The results at Gale crater are representative of the behaviour at other craters in the mesoscale domain.

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