parent nodes: Publications

Assessment of the global energy budget of Mars and comparison to the Earth

J.-B. Madeleine (1), J. W. Head (1), F. Forget (2), M. J. Wolff (3)

(1) Department of Geological Sciences, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, USA
(2) Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique, CNRS/UPMC/IPSL, Paris, France
(3) Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colorado, USA

The energy balance of a planet depends on its radiative environment and internal energy production. In the case of present-day Mars, the whole climate system is by far controlled by solar radiation rather than internal heat. Over the last hundreds of millions of years, changes in the orbital parameters and insolation pattern have induced various climatic excursions, during which the energy transfers within the atmosphere were different from today. On the longer term, i.e. over the last billions of years, the energy budget was even more different, as a result of the larger geothermal flux and heat provided by volcanic eruptions and impacts.

Seeing the climate of Mars from an energy budget perspective provides a framework for understanding the key processes, as well as constraining climate models. The goal of this research is thus to characterize and analyze the energy budget of Mars. The first step, which is described in this communication, consists of quantifying the different components of the Mars radiation budget using the LMD (Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique) GCM (Global Climate Model). The LMD/GCM has been developed for more than 20 years and has now reached a level of detail that allows us to quantify the different contributions of CO2 gas, dust and clouds to the radiation budget. The general picture of the radiation budget as simulated by the GCM can be summarized as follows.

First of all, the global-mean shortwave (SW) flux incident on the top of the Martian atmosphere is 148.5 W m-2. Whereas most of the incoming solar radiation is absorbed by atmospheric gases on Earth, on Mars most of the sunlight is absorbed by dust particles. Our simulations show that around 15% of the incoming solar radiation is absorbed by dust particles whereas 2.5% is reflected by them. Water-ice clouds also reflect around 1.5% of the solar radiation, which is much smaller than the amount of radiation reflected by clouds on Earth (around 20%). The Martian atmosphere is even more transparent in the long-wave (LW) domain. Only 7% of the infrared radiation emitted by the surface is absorbed by the atmosphere. Most of this absorption (around 4% of the total outgoing infrared radiation) is due to dust particles. Water-ice clouds also play a significant role, and absorb approximately half as much LW radiation as the dust particles. The distribution of energy among the different atmospheric processes (release of latent heat by condensing CO2, atmospheric motions, etc.) can also be analyzed with the GCM and is being further documented.

The next steps include analyzing the available observations of the radiation budget, using them to better constrain the GCM, simulating the energy budget during past climatic excursions, and further comparing the fluxes to those of terrestrial glacial regions. The analysis of the integrated SW and LW fluxes has been done using instruments such as TES onboard Mars Global Surveyor, but only in the polar regions. Indeed, measuring the energy budget requires a good spatial and temporal sampling that is better achieved in the polar regions (most Martian satellites have a sun-synchronous polar orbit). Now that GCMs can simulate the SW and LW radiation fields accurately, simulations can be used to fill the temporal gaps in non-polar regions and explore the measurements on a global scale.