For six long ‘Martian years’ or around 12 Earth years orbiter data around the Red Planet: Mars has made a conclusive report that the three types of dust storm found on the planet. Martian dust storms are huge, covering an area up to 2000 km but the caveat is that they dissipate in 2 to 3 days.
There have been two such instances since 1997 when these dust storms have engulfed entirety of Mars. Scientists have come to this conclusion by studying the temperature in the dust storm affected areas. The dust thrown in the air absorbs much of sunlight and in turn results in heating up of the region. There has been a visible difference of around 35 °C.
The heating also effects the global wind distribution of Mars. This heating can produce downward motion that marginally heats the air outside the dust-heated regions.
“We still have much to learn, but this gives us a valuable opening.” said David Kass of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, and instrument scientist for the Mars Climate Sounder on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
Kass added, “Recognizing a pattern in the occurrence of regional dust storms is a step toward understanding the fundamental atmospheric properties controlling them.”
From the years 1997 to 2006 the Thermal Emission Spectrometer on Mars Global Surveyor studied the atmospheric temperatures via infrared observations. And the Mars Climate Sounder on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter started researching Mars in 2006.
These studies will help us to predict the dust storm in the planet in order to plan human venture on the planet, if ever we decide to do so.
Originally Published in Cosmos Magazine
Image Credit: NASA/GETTY IMAGES