New near-IR observations of mesospheric CO2 and H2O clouds on Mars



[1] Carbon dioxide clouds, which are speculated by models on solar and extra-solar planets, have been recently observed near the equator of Mars. The most comprehensive identification of Martian CO2 ice clouds has been obtained by the near-IR imaging spectrometer OMEGA. CRISM, a similar instrument with a higher spatial resolution, cannot detect these clouds with the same method due to its shorter wavelength range. Here we present a new method to detect CO2 clouds using near-IR data based on the comparison of H2O and CO2 ice spectral properties. The spatial and seasonal distributions of 54 CRISM observations containing CO2 clouds are reported, in addition to 17 new OMEGA observations. CRISM CO2 clouds are characterized by grain size in the 0.5–2 μm range and optical depths lower than 0.3. The distributions of CO2 clouds inferred from OMEGA and CRISM are consistent with each other and match at first order the distribution of high altitude (>60 km) clouds derived from previous studies. At second order, discrepancies are observed. We report the identification of H2O clouds extending up to 80 km altitude, which could explain part of these discrepancies: both CO2 and H2O clouds can exist at high, mesospheric altitudes. CRISM observations of afternoon CO2 clouds display morphologies resembling terrestrial cirrus, which generalizes a previous result to the whole equatorial clouds season. Finally, we show that morning OMEGA observations have been previously misinterpreted as evidence for cumuliform, and hence potentially convective, CO2 clouds.