Feb 3, 2014
The (AIAA-SGV) American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics San Gabriel Valley section held an evening dinner event at Beckham Grill Restaurant in Pasadena, Ca with guest speaker Dr. Armin Kleinboehl, Research Scientist and a Remote Sensing Specialist at the (JPL) Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology. He holds a Ph.D. in Atmospheric Physics from the University of Bremen, Germany, and has more than 10 years of experience in remote sensing of the atmospheres of Earth and Mars. He participated in numerous airborne and balloon-borne field campaigns to study the stratospheric ozone layer and to validate satellite measurements. Currently, Dr. Kleinboehl is a Co-Investigator and the lead developer of the operational retrieval algorithm for the Mars Climate Sounder investigation on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which he uses to conduct research on the martian weather and climate.
Armin works with the Mars Climate Sounder (MCS), one of Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s six science instruments, that is performing a detailed, systematic study of Mars’ weather and climate. Mars Climate Sounder is the first science investigation at Mars that is capable of performing a “4-dimensional” study (three spatial dimensions and time) of the key properties of Mars’ lower and middle atmosphere. Since Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter began its science operations in November 2006, Mars Climate Sounder has been acquiring vertical profiles of the temperature, pressure, dust, and clouds of the lower 80 kilometers (50 miles) of Mars’ atmosphere.
Observations made by the MCS have revealed new information about atmospheric tides on the Red Planet. Atmospheric tides are the regular, repeating patterns of changes in pressure, temperature and wind in a planet’s atmosphere that occur over the course of a solar day. In contrast to ocean tides, they are driven by variations in heating between day and night. Earth also has atmospheric tides, but their effect is significant mostly in the upper atmosphere. On Mars, however—which has about one percent as much atmosphere as Earth—atmospheric tides are the driving force of short-term temperature and wind changes throughout the planet’s entire atmosphere.
It was also very interesting to learn that the Martian atmosphere has water-ice clouds for most of the year. Clouds in the equatorial region between about 6 to 19 miles (10 to 30 km) above the surface of Mars absorb infrared light emitted from the surface during daytime. These are relatively transparent clouds, like thin cirrus clouds on Earth. Still, the absorption by these clouds is enough to heat the middle atmosphere each day. The Mars Color Imager (MARCI) provides a global map of the red planet and its weather patterns every day. To view Mars’ weekly weather report go to weblink: http://www.msss.com/msss_images/subject/weather_reports.html
The atmosphere of Mars is a dynamic system. Despite being about 100 times thinner than Earth’s atmosphere, many processes are remarkably similar. At the same time, many features in the atmosphere of Mars are remarkably different from Earth’s atmosphere. Dust storms can grow and become planet-encircling, enshrouding Mars in dust for months. In the winter polar regions, temperatures get cold enough for CO2, the main constituent of the atmosphere, to condense, causing CO2 snowfall. About a third of the martian atmosphere gets trapped this way in polar CO2 ice caps that grow and retract with the seasonal cycle.
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