Investigating the relationship between ozone and water-ice clouds in the martian atmosphere

Brown, Megan; Patel, Manish; Lewis, Stephen and Bennaceur, Amel (2020). Investigating the relationship between ozone and water-ice clouds in the martian atmosphere. In: European Geosciences Union General Assembly 2011, 4-8 May 2020, Vienna, Austria.


This project maps ozone and ice-water clouds detected in the martian atmosphere to assess the atmospheric chemistry between ozone, water-ice and hydroxyl radicals. Hydroxyl photochemistry may be indicated by a non-negative or fluctuating correlation between ozone and water-ice. This will contribute to understanding the stability of carbon dioxide and atmospheric chemistry of Mars.

Ozone (O3) can be used for tracking general circulation of the martian atmosphere and other trace chemicals, as well as acting as a proxy for water vapour. The photochemical break down of water vapour produces hydroxyl radicals known to participate in the destruction of ozone. The relationship between water vapour and ozone is therefore negatively correlated. Atmospheric water-ice concentrations may also follow this theory.
The photochemical reactions between ozone, water-ice clouds and hydroxyl radicals are poorly understood in the martian atmosphere due to the short half-life and rapid reaction rates of hydroxyl radicals. These reactions destroy ozone, as well as indirectly contributing to the water cycle and stability of carbon dioxide (measured by the CO2–CO ratio).
However, the detection of ozone in the presence of water-ice clouds suggests the relationship between them is not always anti-correlated. Global climate models (GCMs) struggle to describe the chemical processes occurring within water-ice clouds. For example, the heterogeneous photochemistry described in the LMD (Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique) GCM did not significantly improve the model.
This leads to the following questions: what is the relationship between water-ice clouds and ozone, and can the chemical reactions of hydroxyl radicals occurring within water-ice clouds be determined through this relationship?

This project aims to address these questions using nadir and occultation retrievals of ozone and water-ice clouds, potentially using retrievals from the UVIS instrument aboard NOMAD (Nadir and Occultation for Mars Discovery).
Analysis will include temporal and spatial binning of data to help identify any patterns present. Correlation tests will be conducted to determine the significance of any relationship at short term and seasonal scales along a range of zonally averaged latitude photochemical model from the LMD-UK GCM (Global Climate Model) will be used to further explore the chemical processes.

Interactions between hydroxyl radicals and the surface of water-ice clouds are poorly understood. Ozone abundance is greatest in the winter at the polar regions, which also coincides with the appearance of the polar hood clouds. The use of nadir observations will enable the comparison between total column of ozone abundance at high latitudes (>60°S) in a range of varying water-ice cloud opacities, as well as the equatorial region (30°S – 30°N) during aphelion. Water-ice clouds may remove hydroxyl radicals responsible for the destruction of ozone and thus the previously assumed anticorrelation between ozone and water-ice will not hold. The project will therefore assess the hypothesis that: water-ice clouds may act as a sink for hydroxyl radicals.

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