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Martian dust storm impact on atmospheric H2O and D/H observed by ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debate

  • ACS Science Team
  • NOMAD Science Team
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)521-525
Number of pages5
JournalNature
Volume568
Issue number7753
Early online date10 Apr 2019
DOIs
DateAccepted/In press - 14 Mar 2019
DateE-pub ahead of print - 10 Apr 2019
DatePublished (current) - 25 Apr 2019

Abstract

Global dust storms on Mars are rare 1,2 but can affect the Martian atmosphere for several months. They can cause changes in atmospheric dynamics and inflation of the atmosphere 3 , primarily owing to solar heating of the dust 3 . In turn, changes in atmospheric dynamics can affect the distribution of atmospheric water vapour, with potential implications for the atmospheric photochemistry and climate on Mars 4 . Recent observations of the water vapour abundance in the Martian atmosphere during dust storm conditions revealed a high-altitude increase in atmospheric water vapour that was more pronounced at high northern latitudes 5,6 , as well as a decrease in the water column at low latitudes 7,8 . Here we present concurrent, high-resolution measurements of dust, water and semiheavy water (HDO) at the onset of a global dust storm, obtained by the NOMAD and ACS instruments onboard the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter. We report the vertical distribution of the HDO/H 2 O ratio (D/H) from the planetary boundary layer up to an altitude of 80 kilometres. Our findings suggest that before the onset of the dust storm, HDO abundances were reduced to levels below detectability at altitudes above 40 kilometres. This decrease in HDO coincided with the presence of water-ice clouds. During the storm, an increase in the abundance of H 2 O and HDO was observed at altitudes between 40 and 80 kilometres. We propose that these increased abundances may be the result of warmer temperatures during the dust storm causing stronger atmospheric circulation and preventing ice cloud formation, which may confine water vapour to lower altitudes through gravitational fall and subsequent sublimation of ice crystals 3 . The observed changes in H 2 O and HDO abundance occurred within a few days during the development of the dust storm, suggesting a fast impact of dust storms on the Martian atmosphere.

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    Rights statement: This is the accepted author manuscript (AAM). The final published version (version of record) is available online via Springer Nature at https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-019-1097-3. Please refer to any applicable terms of use of the publisher.

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