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Zones of photosynthetic potential on Mars and the early Earth

first_imgUltraviolet radiation is more damaging on the surface of Mars than on Earth because of the lack of an ozone shield. We investigated micro-habitats in which UV radiation could be reduced to levels similar to those found on the surface of present-day Earth, but where light in the photosynthetically active region (400-700 nm) would be above the minimum required for photosynthesis. We used a simple radiative transfer model to study four micro-habitats in which such a theoretical Martian Earth-like Photosynthetic Zone (MEPZ) might exist. A favorable radiation environment was found in martian soils containing iron, encrustations of halite, polar snows and crystalline rocks shocked by asteroid or comet impacts, all of which are known habitats for phototrophs on Earth. Although liquid water and nutrients are also required for life, micro-environments with favorable radiation environments for phototrophic life exist in a diversity of materials on Mars. This finding suggests that the lack of an ozone shield is not in itself a limit to the biogeographically widespread colonization of land by photosynthetic organisms, even if there are no other UV-absorbers in the atmosphere apart from carbon dioxide. When applied to the Archean Earth, these data suggest that even with the worst-case assumptions about the UV radiation environment, early land masses could have been colonized by primitive photosynthetic organisms. Such zones could similarly exist on anoxic extra-solar planets lacking ozone shields.last_img read more

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Clouds and radiation processes in regional climate models evaluated using observations over the ice‐free Arctic Ocean

first_imgThe presence of clouds in the Arctic regulates the surface energy budget (SEB) over the sea‐ice surface and the ice‐free ocean. Following several previous field campaigns, the cloud‐radiation relationship, including cloud vertical structure and phase, has been elucidated; however, modeling of this relationship has matured slowly. In recognition of the recent decline in the Arctic sea‐ice extent, representation of the cloud system in numerical models should consider the effects of areas covered by sea ice and ice‐free areas. Using an in situ stationary meteorological observation data set obtained over the ice‐free Arctic Ocean by the Japanese Research Vessel Mirai (September 2014), coordinated evaluation of six regional climate models (RCMs) with nine model runs was performed by focusing on clouds and the SEB. The most remarkable findings were as follows: (1) reduced occurrence of unstable stratification with low‐level cloud water in all models in comparison to the observations, (2) significant differences in cloud water representations between single‐ and double‐moment cloud schemes, (3) extensive differences in partitioning of hydrometeors including solid/liquid precipitation, and (4) pronounced lower‐tropospheric air temperature biases. These issues are considered as the main sources of SEB uncertainty over ice‐free areas of the Arctic Ocean. The results from a coupled RCM imply that the SEB is constrained by both the atmosphere and the ocean (and sea ice) with considerable feedback. Coordinated improvement of both stand‐alone atmospheric and coupled RCMs would promote a more comprehensive and improved understanding of the Arctic air‐ice‐sea coupled system.last_img read more

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