Aeolian processes at the Mars Exploration Rover Meridiani Planum landing site
The martian surface is a natural laboratory for testing our understanding of the physics of aeolian (wind-related) processes in an environment different from that of Earth. Martian surface markings and atmospheric opacity are time-variable, indicating that fine particles at the surface are mobilized regularly by wind. Regolith (unconsolidated surface material) at the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity's landing site has been affected greatly by wind, which has created and reoriented bedforms, sorted grains, and eroded bedrock. Aeolian features here preserve a unique record of changing wind direction and wind strength. Here we present an in situ examination of a martian bright wind streak, which provides evidence consistent with a previously proposed formational model for such features. We also show that a widely used criterion for distinguishing between aeolian saltation- and suspension-dominated grain behaviour is different on Mars, and that estimated wind friction speeds between 2 and 3 m s⁻¹, most recently from the northwest, are associated with recent global dust storms, providing ground truth for climate model predictions.