Annual Survey of Water Vapor Behavior from the OMEGA Mapping Spectrometer Onboard Mars Express


Maltagliati, L., Titov, D. V., Encrenaz, T., Melchiorri, R., Forget, F., Keller, H. U., & Bibring, J. P. (2011). Annual survey of water vapor behavior from the OMEGA mapping spectrometer onboard Mars Express. Icarus, 213(2), 480-495.


We present here the annual behavior of atmospheric water vapor on Mars, as observed by the OMEGA spectrometer on board Mars Express during its first martian year. We consider all the different features of the cycle of water vapor: temporal evolution, both at a seasonal and at a diurnal scale; longitudinal distribution; and the vertical profile, through the variations in the saturation height. We put our results into the context of the current knowledge on the water cycle through a systematic comparison with the already published datasets. The seasonal behavior is in very good agreement with past and simultaneous retrievals both qualitatively and quantitatively, within the uncertainties. The average water vapor abundance during the year is ∼10 pr. μm, with an imbalance between northern and southern hemisphere, in favor of the first. The maximum of activity, up to 60 pr. μm, occurs at high northern latitudes during local summer and shows the dominance of the northern polar cap within the driving processes of the water cycle. A corresponding maximum at southern polar latitudes during the local summer is present, but less structured and intense. It reaches ∼25 pr. μm at its peak. Global circulation has some influence in shaping the water cycle, but it is less prominent than the results from previous instruments suggest. No significant correlation between water vapor column density and local hour is detected. We can constrain the amount of water vapor exchanged between the surface and the atmosphere to few pr. μm. This is consistent with recent results by OMEGA and PFS-LW. The action of the regolith layer on the global water cycle seems to be minor, but it cannot be precisely constrained. The distribution of water vapor on the planet, after removing the topography, shows the already known two-maxima system, over Tharsis and Arabia Terra. However, the Arabia Terra increase is quite fragmented compared with previous observations. A deep zone of minimum separates the two regions. The saturation height of water vapor is mainly governed by the variations of insolation during the year. It is confined within 5–15 km from the surface at aphelion, while in the perihelion season it stretches up to 55 km of altitude.


► Analysis of the first years of Mars Express data.

► Extensive comparison with past and simultaneous measurements.

► Agreement between datasets within the uncertainties.

► Significant quantitative discrepancies for the northern summer maximum.

► Limited amplitude of water vapor diurnal fluctuations.

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