The NASA MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution) spacecraft, which is currently in orbit around Mars, has been taking monthly measurements of the speed and direction of the winds in the upper atmosphere of Mars between about 140 to 240 km above the surface. The observed wind speeds and directions change with time and location, and sometimes fluctuate quickly. These measurements are compared to simulations from a computer model of the Mars atmosphere called M-GITM (Mars Global Ionosphere-Thermosphere Model), developed at U. of Michigan. This is the first comparison between direct measurements of the winds in the upper atmosphere of Mars and simulated winds and is important because it can help to inform us what physical processes are acting on the observed winds. Some wind measurements have similar wind speeds or directions to those predicted by the M-GITM model, but sometimes, there are large differences between the simulated and measured winds. The disagreements between wind observations and model simulations suggest that processes other than normal solar forcing may become relatively more important during these observations and alter the expected circulation pattern. Since the global circulation plays a role in the structure, variability, and evolution of the atmosphere, understanding the processes that drive the winds in the upper atmosphere of Mars provides key context for understanding how the atmosphere behaves as a whole system.
A basic version of the M-GITM code can be found on Github as follows:
and About 30 Neutral Gas and Ion Mass Spectrometer (NGIMS) wind campaigns (of 5 to 10 orbits each) have been conducted by the MAVEN team (Benna et al., 2019). Five of these campaigns are selected for detailed study (Roeten et al. 2019). The Mars conditions for these five campaigns have been used to launch corresponding M-GITM code simulations, yielding 3-D neutral wind fields for comparison to these NGIMS wind observations. The M-GITM datacubes used to extract the zonal and meridional neutral winds, along the trajectory of each orbit path between 140 and 240 km, are provided in this Deep Blue Data archive. README files are provided for each datacube, detailing the contents of each file. A general README file is also provided that summarizes the inputs and outputs of the M-GITM code simulations for this study.