Polar warming in the Mars thermosphere: Seasonal variations owing to changing insolation and dust distributions

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Abstract

[1] Warming of the martian lower thermosphere (100–130 km) at north polar latitudes near the perihelion/winter solstice (Ls = 270) was recently observed. No analogous warming has been observed within the south polar thermosphere during its aphelion/winter season (Ls ∼ 90). Detailed global model simulations are required to investigate the physical processes driving these seasonal variations. New simulations are conducted for conditions approximating the atmosphere during these Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) and Odyssey (ODY) aerobraking periods. Strong northern winter polar warming features are calculated near 120 km, yielding nightside mean temperatures 10–15 K warmer than observed ODY values. No southern winter polar warming trend is simulated; however, nightside mean temperatures are 20–30 K warmer than observed by MGS. The stronger interhemispheric circulation during northern winter is clearly driven by stronger insolation and dust heating near perihelion, resulting in subsidence and warmer temperatures in the northern polar night.

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