Vertical Aerosol Distribution and Mesospheric Clouds From ExoMars UVIS

Streeter, Paul M.; Sellers, Graham; Wolff, Michael J.; Mason, Jonathon P.; Patel, Manish R.; Lewis, Stephen R.; Holmes, James A.; Daerden, Frank; Thomas, Ian R.; Ristic, Bojan; Willame, Yannick; Depiesse, Cédric; Vandaele, Ann Carine; Bellucci, Giancarlo and López‐Moreno, José Juan (2022). Vertical Aerosol Distribution and Mesospheric Clouds From ExoMars UVIS. Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, 127(5), article no. e2021JE007065.



The vertical opacity structure of the martian atmosphere is important for understanding the distribution of ice (water and carbon dioxide) and dust. We present a new data set of extinction opacity profiles from the NOMAD/UVIS spectrometer aboard the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, covering one and a half Mars Years (MY) including the MY 34 Global Dust Storm and several regional dust storms. We discuss specific mesospheric cloud features and compare with existing literature and a Mars Global Climate Model (MGCM) run with data assimilation. Mesospheric opacity features, interpreted to be water ice, were present during the global and regional dust events and correlate with an elevated hygropause in the MGCM, providing evidence that regional dust storms can boost transport of vapor to mesospheric altitudes (with potential implications for atmospheric escape). The season of the dust storms also had an apparent impact on the resulting lifetime of the cloud features, with events earlier in the dusty season correlating with longer‐lasting mesospheric cloud layers. Mesospheric opacity features were also present during the dusty season even in the absence of regional dust storms, and interpreted to be water ice based on previous literature. The assimilated MGCM temperature structure agreed well with the UVIS opacities, but the MGCM opacity field struggled to reproduce mesospheric ice features, suggesting a need for further development of water ice parameterizations. The UVIS opacity data set offers opportunities for further research into the vertical aerosol structure of the martian atmosphere, and for validation of how this is represented in numerical models.

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