Martian Planetary Boundary Layer:

Dynamics and Interactions with the Surface and Free Atmosphere


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Dynamical processes in the Martian boundary layer provide the means of communication between surface ice deposits and the free atmosphere, and the means of lifting dust from the surface. The boundary layer is therefore one of the most critical systems within the Martian climate system. The Martian boundary layer differs from that of the Earth in that it is more strongly forced, it is deeper, and the relative importance of radiative and convective heat fluxes in the lower boundary layer can be quite different. In order to understand the boundary layer, a combination of theoretical and modeling study is needed, in combination with the limited available data from the Martian surface. Interactions between theorists, modelers, and observational scientists is needed to make progress and to provide a basis for analysis of data expected from the NASA Phoenix and Mars Science Laboratory missions.


The outcome of this study is hoped to be increased understanding of the boundary layer and an indication of what observations and modeling tools might be necessary to make further progress.

The specific aspects of boundary layer dynamics that need to be studied include:

  1. how important are radiative and convective fluxes for the vertical movement of heat as a function of height?
  2. what is the relationship between surface thermal forcing and the depth of the boundary layer?
  3. what is the relationship between the surface forcing and the scales and intensity of motion?
  4. how effectively are heat, momentum, and tracers mixed within the stable nighttime boundary layer?
  5. what is the nature of the turblence in the stable and unstable boundary layer?
  6. how well do terrestrial parameterizations of boundary layer turbulence do when forced under Martian conditions?

Arakel Petrosyan