Variability of martian turbopause altitudes

M. Slipski, B. M. Jakosky, M. Benna, M. Elrod, P. Mahaffy, D. Kass, S. Stone, R. Yelle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


The turbopause and homopause represent the transition from strong turbulence and mixing in the middle atmosphere to a molecular-diffusion-dominated region in the upper atmosphere. We use neutral densities measured by the Neutral Gas and Ion Mass Spectrometer on the Mars Atmospheric and Volatile EvolutioN spacecraft from February 2015 to October 2016 to investigate the temperature structure and fluctuations of the Martian upper atmosphere. We compare those with temperature measurements of the lower atmosphere from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s Mars Climate Sounder. At the lowest Mars Atmospheric and Volatile EvolutioN altitudes we often observe a statically stable region where waves propagate freely. In contrast, regions from about 20 km up to at least 70 km are reduced in stability where waves are expected to dissipate readily due to breaking/saturation. We derive homopause altitudes from Neutral Gas and Ion Mass Spectrometer N 2 and Ar densities and find that it varies between 60 and 140 km. From the standard deviations in monthly averaged temperature profiles, we determine the wave turbopause altitude where applicable and find that these altitudes agree with the homopause altitudes. We show that the homopause variability is driven by order of magnitude changes in CO 2 densities, which drastically affect the altitude at which the eddy diffusion is equal to the molecular diffusion. These variations are observed as a function of local time, latitude, and season. That the turbopause/homopause does not track a fixed density level means that the eddy diffusion coefficient at the turbopause can vary significantly, suggesting differences in the dominant breaking waves and tidal modes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2939-2957
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Planets
Issue number11
StatePublished - 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Variability of martian turbopause altitudes'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this