Winds drive dune movement on Mars

November 16, 2011, American Geophysical Union
Mars, as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope. Image credit: NASA

Sand dunes, a common feature on the surface of Mars, can provide a record of recent and past changes. Some dunes near Mars’ polar areas have been observed to move recently due to carbon dioxide ice sublimation, but it has not been confirmed whether dunes are still active all over Mars. Winds contribute to dune movement on Earth, but wind tunnel and atmospheric computer simulations have suggested that strong winds would be rare in the current Martian atmosphere.

In a new study, Silvestro et al. observe recent dune movement in Mars' tropical regions, which are not affected by seasonal changes in carbon dioxide frost.

Focusing on the Arabia Terra and Meridiani region on Mars, the researchers analyze images from the High Resolution Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter as well as other sources of data. They measure migration rates of two groups of ripples in the sand in a dune field in Meridiani Planum and find that advanced about 0.4–1 meter (1.31-3.28 feet) in a Martian year.

The study shows clear evidence that wind-driven dune activity occurs regularly on Mars today. This suggests that carbon dioxide ice sublimation is not necessary for Martian sand movement, as had previously been thought, and that tunnel measurements and computer simulations showing that strong winds are rare on need to be reconsidered.

Explore further: Dunes of Sand: Resumed Mars Orbiter Observations Yield Stunning Views

More information: “Active aeolian processes on Mars: A regional study in Arabia and Meridiani Terrae”, Geophysical Research Letters, 2011. doi:10.1029/2011GL048955

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5 comments

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Isaacsname
4.8 / 5 (4) Nov 16, 2011
Wait.... I was under the impression that there's somewhat of an active tornado season on Mars, also frequently observed dust devils, iirc they've helped to keep the rover's solar panels clean.
Shootist
5 / 5 (3) Nov 16, 2011
Wait.... I was under the impression that there's somewhat of an active tornado season on Mars, also frequently observed dust devils, iirc they've helped to keep the rover's solar panels clean.


Where do they say otherwise? Tornadoes at .05 bar will blow as a light zephyr.

I will mention that we already knew this; "Wind Moves Sand Dunes", but confirmation is nice, I suppose.
Isaacsname
5 / 5 (2) Nov 16, 2011
Wait.... I was under the impression that there's somewhat of an active tornado season on Mars, also frequently observed dust devils, iirc they've helped to keep the rover's solar panels clean.


Where do they say otherwise? Tornadoes at .05 bar will blow as a light zephyr.

I will mention that we already knew this; "Wind Moves Sand Dunes", but confirmation is nice, I suppose.


Lol, I didn't even know " they " thought frost heave was behind dune movements on Mars..
MarkyMark
5 / 5 (2) Nov 17, 2011
Thanks for linking to the site Pirouette i really needed a good laugh. I just hope you are joking about taking that blogger seriously tho as all of the conclusions that blogger has is laughable at best, especially the ones where the blogger has to enhance eliments of some pictures such as 'sharpening' some lines to create the immage of a ducks head that is touted as proof that ducks not only exist on mars but presumibly are worshiped by little green men.
Shootist
not rated yet Nov 17, 2011
Thanks for linking to the site Pirouette i really needed a good laugh. I just hope you are joking about taking that blogger seriously tho as all of the conclusions that blogger has is laughable at best, especially the ones where the blogger has to enhance eliments of some pictures such as 'sharpening' some lines to create the immage of a ducks head that is touted as proof that ducks not only exist on mars but presumibly are worshiped by little green men.


dude, Pirouette is the blogger in question. And yes, he believes the sand dunes are giant "snakes". He also believes that some other photos of sand dunes are actually photos of trees.

He is as mad as Oliver.

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