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  • The Structural and Dynamical Role of Deep Convection in Martian Dust Storms

    Dust storms are a common occurrence on Mars. This dust storm contains cumulus-like clouds and a shadow that suggests these clouds are at least 20 km high. Visible imagery suggest like this suggests that some storms contain convective structures, which are similar to thunderstorms on Earth.

    Dust storms are a common occurrence on Mars. This dust storm contains cumulus-like clouds and a shadow that suggests these clouds are at least 20 km high. Visible imagery suggest like this suggests that some storms contain convective structures, which are similar to thunderstorms on Earth.

    A team led by Dr. Nicholas G. Heavens at HU has been funded by NASA to study the role that convection may play in the structure and organization of Martian dust storms. Convection has been identified in imagery of Martian dust storms for 40 years, but there has been little systematic study in how it contributes to the behavior of Mars’s most important and most mysterious weather systems. Using a combination of data analysis, radiative transfer modeling, and km-scale modeling of dust storms, the team hopes to unravel whether Martian dust storms behave analogously to convectively-sustained weather systems on the Earth, such as hurricanes.

    The first paper related to this project described observations of detached dust layers in the Martian atmosphere that imply extreme convection in Mars’s volcano-based dust storms. The next paper found evidence that a major category of Martian dust storms resembles the cloud street structures commonly observed behind cold fronts over the Atlantic Ocean.

     

    Publications

    Heavens, N.G., B.A. Cantor, P.O. Hayne, D.M. Kass, A. Kleinböhl, D.J. McCleese, S. Piqueux, J.T. Schofield, and J.H. Shirley, 2015b, Extreme Detached Dust Layers near Martian Volcanoes: Evidence for Dust Transport by Mesoscale Circulations Forced by High Topography, Geophys. Res. Lett., 42, 3730–3738, doi: 10.1002/2015GL064004.

    Heavens, N.G. 2017a, Textured Dust Storm Activity in NE Amazonis–SW Arcadia, Mars: Phenomenology and Dynamical Interpretation, J. Atmos. Sci., in press, doi:10.1175/JAS-D-16-0.211.1.