Michael Battalio

Mars Dust Storms
Martian dust storms come in a variety of forms, shapes, textures, and sizes. To study the storms, Mars Daily Global Maps (MDGM) are generated from Mars Color Imager (MARCI) swaths, onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). With the MDGMs, the life cycles of dust storms on Mars can be analyzed to understand the characteristics of dust storm growth and decay periods. Dust storms can be differentiated into distinct types based on their location and proximity to other storms. These collections of storms are called sequences (an example is shown in Fig. 1). A dust storm sequence is a group of multiple dust storms displaying a spatially coherent trajectory and temporally continuous history. The trajectories and the mechanisms of initiation of each individual storm will be studied to distinguish and categorize storm types. The uniqueness of dust storm initiation will be determined whether by a specific precursor event or certain combination of precursors. We seek to understand the relationship between development location, track, size, amount of dust lifted, or initiation mechanism.

Fig 1: Example sequence from MY 29 (year 'B'). Members of the seqeunce, in this case the second sequence from the second subphase of year B, are outlined in green. Other members not a part of the sequence are outlined in black.

Studying dust storms over the course of many Mars years has the benefit of providing climatologies for midlatitude weather systems on Mars. As many of the dust storm features are related to synoptic-scale, baroclinic weather systems, analysis of MDGMs will provide statistical limitations on timing and intensity plus how, where, and when such systems lift dust. The MDGM dataset will constrain the results of modeling efforts of the Martian dust cycle and will point towards new methods of simulating the Martian dust cycle.

Storms sequences for half of the MDGM database have be categorized already. They are shown in Fig. 2. Some patterns are apparent. Sequences are more common in the northern hemisphere. Most storms are found between 30 to 75 degrees N/; however, there are several places where sequences cross equator: Acidalia, Utopia, and Arcadia. A set of papers is being developed to carefully describe these patterns.

Fig 2: Dust storm spatial distribution for the period Ls=~110-300 (depending on year). Each dust storm centroid is marked. Black marks are non-sequence storms, and colors represent sequences from different MDGM years. Filled circles are untextured storms, and unfilled squares are textured storms.
Last updated:  May 31, 2018 | © 2018 Michael Battalio (joseph.battalio[at]cfa[dot]harvard[dot]edu)