GFDL - Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory

Mars General Circulation Model


The FMS code is the basis for a dynamical model of the Martian atmosphere that is being used to explore fundamental aspects of planetary atmospheric dynamics, to aid in the interpretation of data derived from spacecraft missions and to investigate the current and past Martian climate.  The atmosphere is strongly influenced by radiatively active aerosols (mineral dust and water ice clouds) which leads to significant feedbacks between dust lifting, aerosol transport and radiative forcing.

Members involved

John Wilson



This figure shows the distribution of surface albedo (shaded) and topography (contoured) as represented by the cubed-sphere geometry. The horizontal resolution is 0.5 x 0.5 degrees and is relatively uniform over the sphere


The above figure shows the near-surface winds (1 km above ground level) from a portion of the northern-most tile of the cube geometry shown above. The latitude circles are at 10 degree intervals and the wind vectors have been subsampled at 1 degree resolution for clarity. The topographic elevation above the mean areoid is indicated by color shading (km) and the elevated water ice cap at the north pole is clearly evident.


The polar caps play a particularly prominent role in the current Mars water cycle as the residual water ice cap is a major source region for atmospheric water and the edge of the retreating CO2 ice cap is a prime location for frequent dust lifting activity. The layered terrain in the polar regions reflect variations in dust and water ice deposition and thus provide important clues of Mars climate change.

 MGCM simulation (2×2.5 resolution) of a frontal system in the Chryse basin showing column dust opacity (shaded) and low-level (~1 km) winds. High values of surface stress are indicated by contour lines. The figure is centered on 330° E, 40° N.