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Venus' upper atmosphere revealed by a GCM: I. Structure and variability of the circulation

T. Navarro, G. Gilli, G. Schubert, S. Lebonnois, F. Lefèvre, D. Quirino

Abstract
A numerical simulation of the upper atmosphere of Venus is carried out with an improved version of the Institut Pierre-Simon Laplace (IPSL) full-physics Venus General Circulation Model (GCM). This simulation reveals the organization of the atmospheric circulation at an altitude above 80 km in unprecedented detail. Converging flow towards the antisolar point results in supersonic wind speeds and generates a shock-like feature past the terminator at altitudes above 110 km. This shock-like feature greatly decreases nightside thermospheric wind speeds, favoring atmospheric variability on a hourly timescale in the nightside of the thermosphere. A ∼5-day period Kelvin wave originating in the cloud deck is found to substantially impact the Venusian upper atmosphere circulation. As the Kelvin wave impacts the nightside, the poleward meridional circulation is enhanced. Consequently, recombined molecular oxygen is periodically ejected to high latitudes, explaining the characteristics of the various observations of oxygen nightglow at 1.27 μm . An analysis of the simulated 1.27 μm oxygen nightglow shows that it is not necessarily a good tracer of the upper atmospheric dynamics, since contributions from chemical processes and vertical transport often prevail over horizontal transport. Moreover, dayside atomic oxygen abundances also vary periodically as the Kelvin wave momentarily decreases horizontal wind speeds and enhances atomic oxygen abundances, explaining the observations of EUV oxygen dayglow. Despite the nitrogen chemistry not being currently included in the IPSL Venus GCM, the apparent maximum NO nightglow shifted towards the morning terminator might be explained by the simulated structure of winds.

Keywords
Venus; GCM; Upper atmosphere; Atmospheric circulation; Airglow; Kelvin wave; Singlet oxygen

Icarus
Volume 366, Number 1144
2021 September

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Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa Universidade do Porto Faculdade de Ciências e Tecnologia da Universidade de Coimbra
Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia COMPETE 2020 PORTUGAL 2020 União Europeia