Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
. 24/7 Space News .

Subscribe to our free daily newsletters

Mars Gets A Global Dusting

Watch a dust storm grow from nothing but a few dust devils to a planet wide cloud of a rusty haze
  • Selection of Dust Movies
  • Tempe - July 23, 2001
    Though there has been a fair amount of evidence that the Earth's atmosphere is undergoing global warming, the process is slow enough that there are plenty of skeptics, including some very influential people, who argue that it may not be happening at all.

    Global climate change does occur, however, and sometimes so quickly that you can watch it happening. Just look at our neighbor, Mars: within the last month, the global atmospheric temperature of Mars has increased by approximately 50 degrees Fahrenheit, according to data being received by the Thermal Emission Spectrometer (TES) on NASA's Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft.

    The cause of this sudden shift is a giant dust storm that has snowballed and now has enveloped almost the entire planet, absorbing a lot of the Sun's energy in the upper atmosphere.

    "It started out as a large dust storm in the southern latitudes in late June," said Arizona State University's Korrick Professor of Geology Philip Christensen, the principal investigator for TES. "The dust trapped sunlight and heated the atmosphere locally. As this warm air flowed to regions where the air was still cool it generated winds which raised more dust into the atmosphere.

    "By the end of the first week in July, most of the planet was enveloped and our readings of atmospheric temperature had increased by about 30 degrees Centigrade."

    TES is an instrument designed to take detailed readings of energy emissions in the infrared range (heat energy) to aid in studying Mars' geology and atmosphere. A movie showing the instrument's readings over the last month, tracking the expanding dust storm and the accompanying increase in atmospheric temperature, was made from this data.

    Curiously, just as Earth's global warming may theoretically cause the opposite thermal effect on some parts of the planet, so Mars' current heat wave is likely to bring on a big chill further on down the road.

    "In the end, the cloaking of the entire planet with dust is probably going to cool down the surface of Mars significantly and ultimately shut this entire weather system down again," said Christensen. "It's kind of like what we imagine would happen with a nuclear winter on Earth."

    In fact, Christensen points out, it was another global dust storm observed on Mars in the early 1970's that gave astronomer Carl Sagan and others the idea of the kind of catastrophic climate change that might be caused by a global nuclear war.

    "Mars' atmosphere is a much simpler system than Earth's," Christensen cautions, "since it is much thinner and lacks most of the water that we have in ours, trapping energy and moderating changes.

    "Still, it provides us with an interesting model for how global climate changes can occur, albeit much more quickly than on our planet. Nonetheless, some large scale changes here could be abrupt as well."

    Related Links
    Dust Movies
    Search SpaceDaily
    Subscribe To SpaceDaily Express

    NASA's Mars Global Surveyor Captures Dust Storms
    Pasadena - June 4, 2001
    Daily global maps, created with images from NASA's Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft, provide a moving picture of Martian weather during 1999-2000 similar to the familiar satellite weather maps we see of Earth.

    Thanks for being here;
    We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

    With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

    Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

    If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

    SpaceDaily Contributor
    $5 Billed Once

    credit card or paypal
    SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
    $5 Billed Monthly

    paypal only

    Memory Foam Mattress Review
    Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
    XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

    The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2016 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.