Photochemical Control of the Distribution of Water and Sulphuric Acid Aerosols in the Clouds and Upper Haze of Venus with Comparison to Venus Express SOIR Observations
Friday, 19 December 2014
Observations of the middle and lower cloud layers of Venus has established the water vapour mixing ratio there as ~ 30-35 ppm (Ignatiev et al. 1997), while more recent data suggests that the water vapor mixing ratio of the upper haze of Venus is ~ 1 ppm (Bertaux et al. 2007). The transition region between these two regimes, the upper cloud, is an active site of photochemistry and production of sulfuric acid, which occurs through the formation of SO3 from the oxidation of SO2, and subsequent reactions between SO3 and water. These reactions have been shown by Parkinson et al. (2014a, submitted) as capable of causing an order of magnitude decrease of the water vapor mixing ratio in the upper cloud and upper haze if the SO2 mixing ratio at the upper cloud base were increased by only ~20%, as the resulting high SO3 concentrations rapidly react with any available water to form sulfuric acid. The opposite is true when water is in high abundance. This is likely to have profound effects on the sulfuric acid clouds and hazes themselves, as 1) the depletion of either species will decrease the production rate of sulfuric acid and 2) the saturation vapor pressure of the cloud droplets increases with decreasing water fraction, and thus a "drying" of the clouds may result in decreased cloud thickness. In this work we will use the Venus microphysical cloud models of Gao et al. (2014) and Parkinson et al. (2014b, submitted) to simulate the sulfuric acid clouds and hazes of Venus from 40 to 100 km altitude and evaluate how their structure and particle sizes depend on the background water vapor profile and sulfuric acid production rate as determined by Parkinson et al. (2014a, submitted). We also show how they respond to transient episodes of increased/decreased SO2/H2O mixing ratios and discuss the plausibility of possible causes, such as volcanic activity.