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Morphology and dynamics of the upper cloud layer of Venus


Venus is completely covered by a thick cloud layer, of which the upper part is composed of sulphuric acid and some unknown aerosols1. The cloud tops are in fast retrograde rotation (super-rotation), but the factors responsible for this super-rotation are unknown2. Here we report observations of Venus with the Venus Monitoring Camera3 on board the Venus Express spacecraft. We investigate both global and small-scale properties of the clouds, their temporal and latitudinal variations, and derive wind velocities. The southern polar region is highly variable and can change dramatically on timescales as short as one day, perhaps arising from the injection of SO2 into the mesosphere. The convective cells in the vicinity of the subsolar point are much smaller than previously inferred4,5,6, which we interpret as indicating that they are confined to the upper cloud layer, contrary to previous conclusions7,8, but consistent with more recent study9.

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Figure 1: Variability of the clouds and hazes in the south polar region.
Figure 2: Wind speeds from tracking cloud features.
Figure 4: Three VMC views of Venus clouds with wave-like structures.
Figure 5: Three VMC ultraviolet images of the upper cloud deck near the subsolar point.
Figure 3: A mosaic of VMC ultraviolet images showing streaks, wave trains and convection cells (orbit 116).

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S.S.L. was supported by a NASA grant.

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Correspondence to W. J. Markiewicz.

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Markiewicz, W., Titov, D., Limaye, S. et al. Morphology and dynamics of the upper cloud layer of Venus. Nature 450, 633–636 (2007).

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