Planetary Atmospheres

Earth at night highlighting the green and red hues of an Aurora

Credit: Astronaut Scott Kelly, NASA.

Planetary atmospheres are complex systems with many interacting physical and chemical processes. From solar system bodies to exoplanets (planets orbiting other stars), understanding them requires a mixture of observations and computational models.

The platform for the majority of planetary modelling within Astronomy Group at the University of Leeds is the Community Earth System Model (CESM), a global climate model with interactive chemistry. In our research, we develop and apply the “high-top” version of CESM, called the Whole Atmosphere Community Climate Model (WACCM), a model that extends from the surface to the thermosphere/ionosphere. This allows us to better simulate the interaction of a planet around its host star and the coupling between the various layers of the atmosphere.

CESM and WACCM are being used to study a variety of phenomena, including:

Other projects include modelling meteoric metals in the upper atmosphere of Mars (link) and the optical properties of Venusian clouds (link) using the Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique (LMD) Mars General Circulation Model.

People: