A Study of Daytime Convective Vortices and Turbulence in the Martian Planetary Boundary Layer Based on Half‐a‐Year of InSight Atmospheric Measurements and Large‐Eddy Simulations

Research areas:
  • A. Spiga
  • N. Murdoch
  • R. Lorenz
  • F. Forget
  • C. Newman
  • S. Rodriguez
  • J. Pla‐Garcia
  • D. Viúdez Moreiras
  • D. Banfield
  • Clément Perrin
  • N. T. Mueller
  • M. Lemmon
  • E. Millour
  • W. B. Banerdt
Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets
Studying the atmospheric planetary boundary layer (PBL) is crucial to understand the climate of a planet. The meteorological measurements by the instruments onboard InSight at a latitude of 4.5°N make a unique rich data set to study the active turbulent dynamics of the daytime PBL on Mars. Here we use the high-sensitivity continuous pressure, wind, and temperature measurements in the first 400 sols of InSight operations (from northern late winter to midsummer) to analyze wind gusts, convective cells, and vortices in Mars' daytime PBL. We compare InSight measurements to turbulence-resolving large-eddy simulations (LES). The daytime PBL turbulence at the InSight landing site is very active, with clearly identified signatures of convective cells and a vast population of 6,000 recorded vortex encounters, adequately represented by a power law with a 3.4 exponent. While the daily variability of vortex encounters at InSight can be explained by the statistical nature of turbulence, the seasonal variability is positively correlated with ambient wind speed, which is supported by LES. However, wind gustiness is positively correlated to surface temperature rather than ambient wind speed and sensible heat flux, confirming the radiative control of the daytime Martian PBL; and fewer convective vortices are forming in LES when the background wind is doubled. Thus, the long-term seasonal variability of vortex encounters at the InSight landing site is mainly controlled by the advection of convective vortices by ambient wind speed. Typical tracks followed by vortices forming in the LES show a similar distribution in direction and length as orbital imagery.