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Published July 2002 | Published
Journal Article Open

A first look at dust lifting and dust storms near the south pole of Mars with a mesoscale model


Surface wind stresses and dust lifting in the south polar region of Mars are examined with a three-dimensional numerical model. The focus of this study is the middle to late southern spring period when cap-edge dust lifting events are observed. Mesoscale model simulations of high southern latitudes are conducted at three dates within this season (L_s = 225°, 255°, and 310°). Assuming that dust injection is related to the saltation of sand-sized grains or aggregates, the Mars MM5 mesoscale model predicts surface wind stresses of sufficient strength to initiate movement of sand-sized particles (∼100 μm), and hence dust lifting, during all three periods. The availability of dust and/or sand-sized particles is not addressed within this study. Instead, the degree to which the existence of sufficiently strong winds limit dust injection is examined. By eliminating forcing elements from the model, the important dynamical modes generating high wind stresses are isolated. The direct cap-edge thermal contrast (and topographic slopes in some locations) provides the primary drive for high surface wind stresses at the cap edge, while sublimation flow is not found to be particularly important, at these three dates. Simulations in which dust is injected into the lowest model layer when wind stresses exceed a threshold show similar patterns of atmospheric dust to those seen in recent observations. Comparison between these simulations and those without active dust injection shows no signs of consistent positive or negative feedback due to dust clouds on the surface wind stress fields during the late spring season examined here.

Additional Information

© 2002 American Geophysical Union. Received 5 September 2001; revised 30 January 2002; accepted 9 April 2002; published 12 July 2002. We would like to thank Mike Smith and an anonymous reviewer for useful comments and suggestions.

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Published - 2001JE001592.pdf


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