Transport-driven formation of a polar ozone layer on Mars
Publication date: 30 September 2013
Authors: Montmessin, F. & Lefèvre, F.
Journal: Nature Geoscience
Copyright: Nature Publishing Group
Since the seasonal and spatial distribution of ozone on Mars was detected by the ultraviolet spectrometer onboard the spacecraft Mariner 7, our understanding has evolved considerably thanks to parallel efforts in observations and modelling. At low-to-mid latitudes, martian ozone is distributed vertically in two main layers, a near-surface layer and a layer at an altitude between 30 and 60 km. Here we report evidence from the SPICAM UV spectrometer onboard the Mars Express orbiter for the existence of a previously overlooked ozone layer that emerges in the southern polar night at 40–60 km in altitude, with no counterpart observed at the north pole. Comparisons with global climate simulations for Mars indicate that this layer forms as a result of the large-scale transport of oxygen-rich air from sunlit latitudes to the poles, where the oxygen atoms recombine to form ozone during the polar night. However, transport-driven ozone formation is counteracted in our simulations by the destruction of ozone by reactions with hydrogen radicals, whose concentrations vary seasonally on Mars, reflecting seasonal variations of water vapour. We conclude that the observed dichotomy between the ozone layers of the two poles, with a significantly richer layer in the southern hemisphere, can be explained by the interplay of these mechanisms.Link to publication