Stephen Bougher

Stephen W. Bougher

Professor Emeritus


Climate & Space Research Building 2455 Hayward Street Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2143

Additional Titles

  • Andrew F Nagy Collegiate Research Professor Emeritus and Research Professor Emeritus

Related links


  • Ph.D., Planetary Aeronomy, University of Michigan (1984)
  • M.S., Astro-geophysics, University of Colorado (1980)
  • B.A., Physics, Northwestern University (1977)

Professional Service

  • Mars Global Surveyor Mission (1995-1999), Aerobraking team
  • 2001 Mars Odyssey Orbiter (2001-2002), Aerobraking Team
  • 2005 Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (2002-2009), Accelerometer Facility Team Member
  • Venus Express Participating Scientist data analysis (2006-2015) SPICAV Instrument
  • MAVEN Mission to Mars:  Co-I (2012-2016), volatile escape

Research Interests

Comparative Planetary Upper Atmospheres.

The comparative approach to planetary problems is becoming increasingly fruitful as new information from various planet atmospheres is assimilated. The long-term objective in my program of research is to contrast and compare the processes responsible for the structure and dynamics of the Venus, Earth, Mars and Jovian planet upper atmospheres. This is important to our overall understanding of how atmospheres are driven and how they change over time, both naturally and in the case of Earth as a result of human influence.

My study of upper atmospheres specifically involves a systematic examination of their neutral/ion chemistry, radiation, airglow, and dynamics above ~50 km. This strategy includes modeling their mesospheric, thermospheric, and ionospheric responses to different forcings using the 3-D thermospheric general circulation model (TGCM) utility at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). In addition, the Michigan Global Ionosphere Thermosphere Model (GITM) has recently been adapted to the atmospheres of Mars and Jupiter. Both the TGCM and GITM codes couple chemical, radiative, and dynamical processes self-consistently; this feedback is critical to understanding upper atmosphere responses to changing external forcings (e.g. solar, magnetospheric, tidal, gravity wave).

Data from various terrestrial and planetary spacecraft missions and ground-based observations is being used to validate these models and compare the relevant atmospheric processes. Recently, aerobraking data from three Mars orbiters (Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Odyssey and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter) was used to constrain Mars TGCM simulations, from which the underlying dynamical processes linking the Mars lower and upper atmospheres were investigated. More recently, a ground to exobase Mars GITM code has been developed and validated for use in data analysis activities associated with the upcoming MAVEN mission to Mars. The solar wind interaction with the Mars upper atmosphere (i.e. thermosphere, ionosphere, exosphere variations) is the focus  of our modeling activities. A web site is available that presents an archive of Venus, Earth, and Mars upper atmosphere TGCM simulations.

Current Research Projects

  • Comparing the energetics and dynamics of the upper atmospheres of Venus, Earth, Mars, and Jupiter using the TGCM and GITM utilities
  • Venus airglow emissions, as well as upper atmosphere temperature and density distributions, and their implications for global dynamics.
  • Gravity wave/tidal coupling of the lower and upper atmospheres of Venus and Mars
  • Aerobraking in the thermosphere of Mars (e.g. Mars Global Surveyor, 2001 Mars Odyssey, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, future missions)
  • Mars ionospheric structure and its implications for the neutral atmosphere (below) and the solar wind interaction (above)
  • Model integration of the processes linking the solar wind interaction with the upper atmosphere of Mars (e.g. thermosphere, ionosphere, exosphere)
  • Jupiter’s auroral energetics and implications for its global dynamics and structure. Magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling at Jupiter


  • OVPR Outstanding Research Achievement Award, U. of Michigan: 2004
  • College of Engineering Outstanding Research Scientist Award, U. of Michigan: 2007
  • MRO Accelerometer Science Team Group Achievement Award: 2011
  • National Center for Atmospheric Research Affiliate Scientist: 2003 – 2015
  • OVPR Andrew F. Nagy Collegiate Research Professorship: 2009 – 2014