After several years of research trying to establish periodic patterns in the dust storms on Mars, scientists eventually confirmed that the most eloquent indicator is represented by the temperature recorded through high-altitude images.
Captured by NASA orbiters around planet Mars, these images become an important step forward in understanding the climate and atmospheric changes of the Red Planet.
In order for this pattern to emerge as a scientific conclusion, astronomers monitored the Red Planet`s atmosphere for more than ten years. Instead of looking at the visible dust raised in the atmosphere, scientists chose to analyze the temperature structure of Mars.
If NASA is to send human and robotic missions, such information about the dust storms on Mars becomes vital for the survival of the explorers. The difference in temperature when a storm hits can amount to 63 Fahrenheit, potentially affecting any mission on the Red Planet.
So far, scientists have established three types of different dust storms on Mars, each of it categorized depending on its scale and localization: type A, B and C.
Normally, a Type A kind of storm originates from the North Pole during winter, crossing the equator into the Southern Hemisphere. When getting in contact with the warmer temperatures of the Southern winds, the dust storm receives an automatic boost, increasing its size and power.
Type B is a summer storm that starts in the Southern Hemisphere. Although it is not as big in size as the Type A, this natural phenomenon can be equally dangerous due to its tendency group with other Type B storms and create a regional haze.
Type C is a kind of storm that originates in the Northern Hemisphere during the northern winter. Like the type A, it moves into the southern part of the planet where the warm winds increase its power. However, unlike Type A and Type B, this kind of storm can vary in size and power more than the previous two.
Even though it is too early to see these pieces of information put into practice and used in exploratory missions, David Kass, one of the leading authors of the research and a scientist for Nasa`s Laboratory for Jet Propulsion in California mentions in an article published in Geophysical Research Letters:
“Recognizing a pattern in the occurrence of regional dust storms is a step toward understanding the fundamental atmospheric properties controlling them. We still have much to learn, but this gives us a valuable opening.”
Image Source: Wikipedia