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Assessing atmospheric predictability on Mars using numerical weather prediction and data assimilation

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Disciplines
  • Earth Science
  • Mathematics
  • Physics

Abstract

Introduction: Studies of the time series of surface measurements of wind, pressure and temperature at the two Viking landers by Barnes [1], [2] revealed that baroclinic transient travelling waves on Mars occur mostly during northern hemisphere autumn, winter and early spring, and typically take the form of highly coherent patterns with planetary wavenumbers 1-3 that can persist for intervals of up to 30-60 sols before changing erratically. Such behaviour is almost unknown on Earth, where individual baroclinic weather systems typically persist for no longer than 5-10 days and seldom remain coherent around entire latitude circles. This occurrence of planetary-scale coherent baroclinic wave-like weather systems on Mars led to suggestions [3] that Mars' atmospheric circulation operates in a quite different dynamical regime to that of the Earth, one that tends to favour regular, symmetrical baroclinic wave activity in a manner reminiscent of the regular wave regimes found in laboratory fluid dynamics experiments on sloping convection in a rotating, thermally-driven fluid annulus (e.g. [4], [5]). In its extreme form, this hypothetical comparison would suggest the possibility of a fully non-chaotic atmospheric circulation on Mars, though subsequent modelling work [6] indicated that perturbations due to the thermal tide would lead to chaotic transitions back and forth between different intransitive wave states. This form of (relatively low-dimensional) chaotic modeflipping appeared to be consistent with the Viking observations of Mars, suggesting nevertheless that the intrinsic predictability of Mars' mid-latitude meteorology was qualitatively and quantitatively quite different from that of the Earth.

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