05.15.2017 Putting Martian 'Tribulation' Behind
05.15.2017 From 'Tribulation' to 'Perseverance' on Mars
04.20.2017 Chemical Laptop Team
04.20.2017 Subcritical Water Extractor
04.20.2017 Chemical Laptop
04.20.2017 Atacama Landscape
03.30.2017 Measuring Mars' Atmosphere Loss
03.29.2017 Lifetime Achievement Award to Theisinger
03.29.2017 A Decade of Compiling the Sharpest Mars Map
03.21.2017 Break in Raised Tread on Curiosity Wheel
03.17.2017 COBALT/JPL team
03.09.2017 Back-to-Back Martian Dust Storms
02.27.2017 Swirling Dust in Gale Crater, Mars, Sol 1613
02.27.2017 Dust Devil Passes Near Martian Sand Dune
02.27.2017 Sand Moving Under Curiosity, One Day to Next
02.08.2017 Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Observes Changes
01.26.2017 Mono Lake
01.25.2017 'Wing' Dike of Hardened Lava in New Mexico
01.25.2017 Blade-Like Martian Walls Outline Polygons
01.23.2017 Spirit And Opportunity By The Numbers
01.10.2017 Mars 2020 Rover - Artist's Concept
01.06.2017 Earth and Its Moon, as Seen From Mars
12.13.2016 Now and Long Ago at Gale Crater, Mars
12.13.2016 Where's Boron? Mars Rover Detects It
11.15.2016 Schiaparelli Impact Site on Mars, Stereo
11.03.2016 Schiaparelli Impact Site on Mars, in Color
10.17.2016 MAVEN Captures Rapid Cloud Formation
10.17.2016 Mars' Nightside Atmosphere
10.17.2016 Ultraviolet Image Near Mars' South Pole
10.17.2016 Ultraviolet Mars Reveals Cloud Formation
10.05.2016 Dust Haze Hiding the Martian Surface in 2001
10.04.2016 Test of Lander Vision System for Mars 2020
10.03.2016 A Sharpened Ultraviolet View of Mars
10.03.2016 Curiosity Self-Portrait at 'Murray Buttes'
10.03.2016 Butte 'M9a' in 'Murray Buttes' on Mars
2016 Resembles Past Global Dust Storm Years on MarsThis graphic indicates a similarity between 2016 (dark blue line) and five past years in which Mars has experienced a global dust storm (orange lines and band), compared to years with no global dust storm (blue-green lines and band). The arrow nearly midway across in the dark blue line indicates the Mars time of year in late September 2016.
A key factor in the graph is the orbital angular momentum of Mars, which would be steady in a system of only one planet orbiting the sun, but varies due to relatively small effects of having other planets in the solar system.
The horizontal scale is time of year on Mars, starting at left with the planet's farthest distance from the sun in each orbit. This point in the Mars year, called "Mars aphelion," corresponds to late autumn in the southern hemisphere. Numeric values on the horizontal axis are in Earth years; each Mars year lasts for about 1.9 Earth years.
The vertical scale bar at left applies only to the black-line curve on the graph. The amount of solar energy entering Mars' atmosphere (in watts per square meter) peaks at the time of year when Mars is closest to the sun, corresponding to late spring in the southern hemisphere. The duration of Mars' dust storm season, as indicated, brackets the time of maximum solar input to the atmosphere.
The scale bar at right, for orbital angular momentum, applies to the blue, brown and blue-green curves on the graph. The values are based on mass, velocity and distance from the gravitational center of the solar system. Additional information on the units is in a 2015 paper in the journal Icarus, from which this graph is derived. The band shaded in orange is superimposed on the curves of angular momentum for five Mars years that were accompanied by global dust storms in 1956, 1971, 1982, 1994 and 2007. Brown diamond symbols on the curves for these years in indicate the times when the global storms began. The band shaded blue-green lies atop angular momentum curves for six years when no global dust storms occurred: 1939, 1975, 1988, 1998, 2000 and 2011.
Note that in 2016, as in the pattern of curves for years with global dust storms, the start of the dust storm season corresponded to a period of increasing orbital angular momentum. In years with no global storm, angular momentum was declining at that point. Observations of whether dust from regional storms on Mars spreads globally in late 2016 or early 2017 will determine whether this correspondence holds up for the current Mars year.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech