Mars water-ice clouds and precipitation

J. A. Whiteway, L. Komguem, C. Dickinson, C. Cook, M. Illnicki, J. Seabrook, V. Popovici, T. J. Duck, R. Davy, P. A. Taylor, J. Pathak, D. Fisher, A. I. Carswell, M. Daly, V. Hipkin, A. P. Zent, M. H. Hecht, S. E. Wood, L. K. Tamppari, N. Renno, J. E. Moores, M. T. Lemmon, F. Daerden, and P. H. Smith, Science, 235, 68 - 70, doi: 10.1126/science.1172344, 2009.

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Abstract. The light detection and ranging instrument on the Phoenix mission observed water-ice clouds in the atmosphere of Mars that were similar to cirrus clouds on Earth. Fall streaks in the cloud structure traced the precipitation of ice crystals toward the ground. Measurements of atmospheric dust indicated that the planetary boundary layer (PBL) on Mars was well mixed, up to heights of around 4 kilometers, by the summer daytime turbulence and convection. The water-ice clouds were detected at the top of the PBL and near the ground each night in late summer after the air temperature started decreasing. The interpretation is that water vapor mixed upward by daytime turbulence and convection forms ice crystal clouds at night that precipitate back toward the surface.

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