An intercomparison of ground-based millimeter, MGS TES, and Viking atmospheric temperature measurements: Seasonal and interannual variability of temperatures and dust loading in the global Mars atmosphere


  • R. T. Clancy,

  • B. J. Sandor,

  • M. J. Wolff,

  • P. R. Christensen,

  • M. D. Smith,

  • J. C. Pearl,

  • B. J. Conrath,

  • R. J. Wilson


During the period October 1997 to September 1999 we obtained and analyzed over 100 millimeter-wave observations of Mars atmospheric CO line absorption for atmospheric temperature profiles. These measurements extend through one full Mars year (solar longitudes LS of 190° in 1997 to 180° in 1999) and coincide with atmospheric temperature profile and dust column measurements from the Thermal Emission Spectrometer (TES) experiment on board the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) spacecraft. A comparison of Mars atmospheric temperatures retrieved by these distinct methods provides the first opportunity to place the long-term (1982–1999) millimeter retrievals of Mars atmospheric temperatures within the context of contemporaneous, spatially mapped spacecraft observations. Profile comparisons of 0–30 km altitude atmospheric temperatures retrieved with the two techniques agree typically to within the 5 K calibration accuracy of the millimeter observations. At the 0.5 mbar pressure level (∼25 km altitude) the 30°N/30°S average for TES infrared temperatures and the disk-averaged millimeter temperatures are also well correlated in their seasonal and dust-storm-related variations over the 1997–1999 period. This period includes the Noachis Terra regional dust storm, which led to very abrupt heating (∼15 K at 0.5 mbar) of the global Mars atmosphere at LS = 224° in 1997 [Christensen et al., 1998; Conrath et al., this issue; Smith et al., this issue]. Much colder (10–20 K) global atmospheric temperatures were observed during the 1997 versus 1977 perihelion periods (LS = 200°–330°), consistent with the much (2 to 8 times) lower global dust loading of the atmosphere during the 1997 perihelion dust storm season versus the Viking period of the 1977a,b storms. The 1998–1999 Mars atmosphere revealed by both the millimeter and TES observations is also 10–15 K colder than presented by the Viking climatology during the aphelion season (LS = 0°–180°, northern spring/summer) of Mars. We reassess the observational basis of the Viking dusty-warm climatology for this season to conclude that the global aphelion atmosphere of Mars is colder, less dusty, and cloudier than indicated by the established Viking climatology even for the Viking period. We also conclude that Mars atmospheric temperatures exhibit their most significant interannual variations during the perihelion dust storm season (10–20 K for LS = 200°–340°) and during the post-aphelion northern summer season (5–10 K for LS = 100°–200°).