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To say there are some myths circulating about Martian dust storms would be an understatement. Mars is known for its globe-encircling dust storms, the likes of which are seen nowhere else. Science fiction writers and Hollywood movies often make the dust storms out to be more dangerous than they really are. In “The Martian,” a powerful dust storm destroys equipment, strands Matt Damon on Mars, and forces him into a brutal struggle for survival.
In reality—though global dust storms are a true spectacle, and winds can reach speeds of nearly 100 kph (60mph)—they’re not violent. 100 kph is half the speed of some hurricanes here on Earth. Also, the Martian atmosphere is far less dense than Earth’s atmosphere, so even the most powerful storms couldn’t destroy any major equipment. You might not even be able to fly a kite.
Dust - Storms - Mars - Consequences - Opportunity
But the dust storms on Mars are important to understand, and they can have consequences. The Opportunity rover was felled by a global dust storm that overwhelmed it. And any future human presence on Mars will have to take Martian dust storms into account.
A pair of astronomers at the Harvard and Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) have released a new study into Martian dust storms. They are Michael Battalio and Huiqun Wang, and their study is titled “The Aonia-Solis-Valles dust storm track in the southern hemisphere of Mars.” It was published in Science Direct.
Dust - Storms - Categories - Storms - Year
Martian dust storms are classified into three categories: local, regional, and global. The smaller storms occur throughout the year, while the global storms are active during the northern fall and winter.
In their paper, Battalio and Wang emphasize the fact that a large enough storm can affect atmospheric circulation, thermal structure, and, of course, visibility. It’s like Mars has a dust cycle that’s comparable to Earth’s water cycle. In their study,...
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