2017 .

A. Sánchez-Lavega, S. Lebonnois, T. Imamura, P. Read, and D. Luz. The Atmospheric Dynamics of Venus. Space Science Reviews, 212:1541-1616, 2017. [ bib | DOI | PDF version | ADS link ]

We review our current knowledge of the atmospheric dynamics of Venus prior to the Akatsuki mission, in the altitude range from the surface to approximately the cloud tops located at about 100 km altitude. The three-dimensional structure of the wind field in this region has been determined with a variety of techniques over a broad range of spatial and temporal scales (from the mesoscale to planetary, from days to years, in daytime and nighttime), spanning a period of about 50 years (from the 1960s to the present). The global panorama is that the mean atmospheric motions are essentially zonal, dominated by the so-called super-rotation (an atmospheric rotation that is 60 to 80 times faster than that of the planetary body). The zonal winds blow westward (in the same direction as the planet rotation) with a nearly constant speed of 100 m s^{-1} at the cloud tops (65-70 km altitude) from latitude 50degN to 50degS, then decreasing their speeds monotonically from these latitudes toward the poles. Vertically, the zonal winds decrease with decreasing altitude towards velocities 1-3 m s^{-1} in a layer of thickness 10 km close to the surface. Meridional motions with peak speeds of 15 m s^{-1} occur within the upper cloud at 65 km altitude and are related to a Hadley cell circulation and to the solar thermal tide. Vertical motions with speeds 1-3 m s^{-1} occur in the statically unstable layer between altitudes of 50 - 55 km. All these motions are permanent with speed variations of the order of 10%. Various types of wave, from mesoscale gravity waves to Rossby-Kelvin planetary scale waves, have been detected at and above cloud heights, and are considered to be candidates as agents for carrying momentum that drives the super-rotation, although numerical models do not fully reproduce all the observed features. Momentum transport by atmospheric waves and the solar tide is thought to be an indispensable component of the general circulation of the Venus atmosphere. Another conspicuous feature of the atmospheric circulation is the presence of polar vortices. These are present in both hemispheres and are regions of warmer and lower clouds, seen prominently at infrared wavelengths, showing a highly variable morphology and motions. The vortices spin with a period of 2-3 days. The South polar vortex rotates around a geographical point which is itself displaced from the true pole of rotation by 3 degrees. The polar vortex is surrounded and constrained by the cold collar, an infrared-dark region of lower temperatures. We still lack detailed models of the mechanisms underlying the dynamics of these features and how they couple (or not) to the super-rotation. The nature of the super-rotation relates to the angular momentum stored in the atmosphere and how it is transported between the tropics and higher latitudes, and between the deep atmosphere and upper levels. The role of eddy processes is crucial, but likely involves the complex interaction of a variety of different types of eddy, either forced directly by radiative heating and mechanical interactions with the surface or through various forms of instability. Numerical models have achieved some significant recent success in capturing some aspects of the observed super-rotation, consistent with the scenario discussed by Gierasch (J. Atmos. Sci. 32:1038-1044, 1975) and Rossow and Williams (J. Atmos. Sci. 36:377-389, 1979), but many uncertainties remain, especially in the deep atmosphere. The theoretical framework developed to explain the circulation in Venus's atmosphere is reviewed, as well as the numerical models that have been built to elucidate the super-rotation mechanism. These tools are used to analyze the respective roles of the different waves in the processes driving the observed motions. Their limitations and suggested directions for improvements are discussed.

S. S. Limaye, S. Lebonnois, A. Mahieux, M. Pätzold, S. Bougher, S. Bruinsma, S. Chamberlain, R. T. Clancy, J.-C. Gérard, G. Gilli, D. Grassi, R. Haus, M. Herrmann, T. Imamura, E. Kohler, P. Krause, A. Migliorini, F. Montmessin, C. Pere, M. Persson, A. Piccialli, M. Rengel, A. Rodin, B. Sandor, M. Sornig, H. Svedhem, S. Tellmann, P. Tanga, A. C. Vandaele, T. Widemann, C. F. Wilson, I. Müller-Wodarg, and L. Zasova. The thermal structure of the Venus atmosphere: Intercomparison of Venus Express and ground based observations of vertical temperature and density profiles. Icarus, 294:124-155, 2017. [ bib | DOI | PDF version | ADS link ]

The Venus International Reference Atmosphere (VIRA) model contains tabulated values of temperature and number densities obtained by the experiments on the Venera entry probes, Pioneer Venus Orbiter and multi-probe missions in the 1980s. The instruments on the recent Venus Express orbiter mission generated a significant amount of new observational data on the vertical and horizontal structure of the Venus atmosphere from 40 km to about 180 km altitude from April 2006 to November 2014. Many ground based experiments have provided data on the upper atmosphere (90-130 km) temperature structure since the publication of VIRA in 1985. The “Thermal Structure of the Venus Atmosphere” Team was supported by the International Space Studies Institute (ISSI), Bern, Switzerland, from 2013 to 2015 in order to combine and compare the ground-based observations and the VEx observations of the thermal structure as a first step towards generating an updated VIRA model. Results of this comparison are presented in five latitude bins and three local time bins by assuming hemispheric symmetry. The intercomparison of the ground-based and VEx results provides for the first time a consistent picture of the temperature and density structure in the 40 km-180 km altitude range. The Venus Express observations have considerably increased our knowledge of the Venus atmospheric thermal structure above ~40 km and provided new information above 100 km. There are, however, still observational gaps in latitude and local time above certain regions. Considerable variability in the temperatures and densities is seen above 100 km but certain features appear to be systematically present, such as a succession of warm and cool layers. Preliminary modeling studies support the existence of such layers in agreement with a global scale circulation. The intercomparison focuses on average profiles but some VEx experiments provide sufficient global coverage to identify solar thermal tidal components.

The differences between the VEx temperature profiles and the VIRA below 0.1 mbar/95 km are small. There is, however, a clear discrepancy at high latitudes in the 10-30 mbar (70-80 km) range. The VEx observations will also allow the improvement of the empirical models (VTS3 by Hedin et al., 1983 and VIRA by Keating et al., 1985) above 0.03 mbar/100 km, in particular the 100-150 km region where a sufficient observational coverage was previously missing. The next steps in order to define the updated VIRA temperature structure up to 150 km altitude are (1) define the grid on which this database may be provided, (2) fill what is possible with the results of the data intercomparison, and (3) fill the observational gaps. An interpolation between the datasets may be performed by using available General Circulation Models as guidelines.

An improved spatial coverage of observations is still necessary at all altitudes, in latitude-longitude and at all local solar times for a complete description of the atmospheric thermal structure, in particular on the dayside above 100 km. New in-situ observations in the atmosphere below 40 km are missing, an altitude region that cannot be accessed by occultation experiments. All these questions need to be addressed by future missions.

S. Lebonnois and G. Schubert. The deep atmosphere of Venus and the possible role of density-driven separation of CO2 and N2. Nature Geoscience, 10:473-477, 2017. [ bib | DOI | PDF version | ADS link ]

With temperatures around 700 K and pressures of around 75 bar, the deepest 12 km of the atmosphere of Venus are so hot and dense that the atmosphere behaves like a supercritical fluid. The Soviet VeGa-2 probe descended through the atmosphere in 1985 and obtained the only reliable temperature profile for the deep Venusian atmosphere thus far. In this temperature profile, the atmosphere appears to be highly unstable at altitudes below 7 km, contrary to expectations. We argue that the VeGa-2 temperature profile could be explained by a change in the atmospheric gas composition, and thus molecular mass, with depth. We propose that the deep atmosphere consists of a non-homogeneous layer in which the abundance of N2-the second most abundant constituent of the Venusian atmosphere after CO2-gradually decreases to near-zero at the surface. It is difficult to explain a decline in N2 towards the surface with known nitrogen sources and sinks for Venus. Instead we suggest, partly based on experiments on supercritical fluids, that density-driven separation of N2 from CO2 can occur under the high pressures of Venus's deep atmosphere, possibly by molecular diffusion, or by natural density-driven convection. If so, the amount of nitrogen in the atmosphere of Venus is 15% lower than commonly assumed. We suggest that similar density-driven separation could occur in other massive planetary atmospheres.

M. Lefèvre, A. Spiga, and S. Lebonnois. Three-dimensional turbulence-resolving modeling of the Venusian cloud layer and induced gravity waves. Journal of Geophysical Research (Planets), 122:134-149, 2017. [ bib | DOI | PDF version | ADS link ]

The impact of the cloud convective layer of the atmosphere of Venus on the global circulation remains unclear. The recent observations of gravity waves at the top of the cloud by the Venus Express mission provided some answers. These waves are not resolved at the scale of global circulation models (GCM); therefore, we developed an unprecedented 3-D turbulence-resolving large-eddy simulations (LES) Venusian model using the Weather Research and Forecast terrestrial model. The forcing consists of three different heating rates: two radiative ones for solar and infrared and one associated with the adiabatic cooling/warming of the global circulation. The rates are extracted from the Laboratoire de Météorlogie Dynamique Venus GCM using two different cloud models. Thus, we are able to characterize the convection and associated gravity waves in function of latitude and local time. To assess the impact of the global circulation on the convective layer, we used rates from a 1-D radiative-convective model. The resolved layer, taking place between 1.0 × 105 and 3.8 × 104 Pa (48-53 km), is organized as polygonal closed cells of about 10 km wide with vertical wind of several meters per second. The convection emits gravity waves both above and below the convective layer leading to temperature perturbations of several tenths of kelvin with vertical wavelength between 1 and 3 km and horizontal wavelength from 1 to 10 km. The thickness of the convective layer and the amplitudes of waves are consistent with observations, though slightly underestimated. The global dynamics heating greatly modify the convective layer.

G. Gilli, S. Lebonnois, F. González-Galindo, M. A. López-Valverde, A. Stolzenbach, F. Lefèvre, J. Y. Chaufray, and F. Lott. Thermal structure of the upper atmosphere of Venus simulated by a ground-to-thermosphere GCM. Icarus, 281:55-72, 2017. [ bib | DOI | PDF version | ADS link ]

We present here the thermal structure of the upper atmosphere of Venus predicted by a full self-consistent Venus General Circulation Model (VGCM) developed at Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique (LMD) and extended up to the thermosphere of the planet. Physical and photochemical processes relevant at those altitudes, plus a non-orographic GW parameterisation, have been added. All those improvements make the LMD-VGCM the only existing ground-to-thermosphere 3D model for Venus: a unique tool to investigate the atmosphere of Venus and to support the exploration of the planet by remote sounding. The aim of this paper is to present the model reference results, to describe the role of radiative, photochemical and dynamical effects in the observed thermal structure in the upper mesosphere/lower thermosphere of the planet. The predicted thermal structure shows a succession of warm and cold layers, as recently observed. A cooling trend with increasing latitudes is found during daytime at all altitudes, while at nighttime the trend is inverse above about 110 km, with an atmosphere up to 15 K warmer towards the pole. The latitudinal variation is even smaller at the terminator, in agreement with observations. Below about 110 km, a nighttime warm layer whose intensity decreases with increasing latitudes is predicted by our GCM. A comparison of model results with a selection of recent measurements shows an overall good agreement in terms of trends and order of magnitude. Significant data-model discrepancies may be also discerned. Among them, thermospheric temperatures are about 40-50 K colder and up to 30 K warmer than measured at terminator and at nighttime, respectively. The altitude layer of the predicted mesospheric local maximum (between 100 and 120 km) is also higher than observed. Possible interpretations are discussed and several sensitivity tests performed to understand the data-model discrepancies and to propose future model improvements.