Cloud reflection observations: Results from the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter

Anton B. Ivanov, Duane O. Muhleman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Formation of the perennial ice caps is one of the most important climatic processes on Mars. Up to 25% of the atmosphere is recycled each year through the ice caps. CO2 ice may form on cold surfaces when temperatures are low enough (∼146 K) or condense in the atmosphere and fall down on the surface as snow. Condensation of CO2 is easily predicted by the models but has not been observed directly in any significant detail. However, formation of thick CO2 clouds may have important implications for the martian climate. We describe observations of cloud echoes during the polar night by the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter. We argue that most of these clouds are mostly composed of CO2 ice. We present observations of cloud heights, and their locations and properties over the course of 1.5 martian years. We were able to distinguish at least two distinctive types of clouds on the basis of their location and spatial structure. We compare cloud echo locations with the Mars Global Surveyor Thermal Emission Spectrometer (TES) brightness temperature data. The results show some correlation with the anomalously low brightness temperatures ("cold" spots) in TES data. We suggest that these zones are due to snow or frost freshly formed on the ground and only in some rare cases to CO2 snowfall.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)190-206
Number of pages17
JournalIcarus
Volume154
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Clouds
  • CO condensation
  • Ice caps
  • Ices
  • Mars, atmosphere

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