A global sand storm on Mars canceled the winter on the red planet

A global sand storm on Mars canceled the winter on the red planet

Images of Mars below clear conditions (left) and during the 2018 global dust storm.

NASA / ESA / STScl

In June 2018, a number of small dust storms on Mars converges to form one massive, swirling storm that engulfed the entire planet, practically hiding the entire surface from view of spy orbiters. Now the researchers say the mega-storm also crushed an entire season, bringing the austral winter to a sudden and early end.

You may remember this as the dust storm it caused a death shot at NASA’s solar-powered Opportunity rover.

“This was a perfect opportunity to investigate how global Dust storms impact the atmosphere at the Martian poles, which are surrounded by powerful jets of the wind in winter,” Paul Streeter explained of the UK Open University, in a declaration.

Streeter and colleagues from the university, NASA and the Russian Academy of The sciences looked at data from Martian orbiters and a climate model of the planet to examine the impacts of the storm on the Martian atmosphere. They found the storm had very different effects on the southern and northern half of the planet.

The storm has moved more dust towards the south pole, destroying a vortex of cold air and bringing an early spring to the hemisphere. It is almost as if the blanket of the dust that seemed to cover the planet in actually had the same heating quality as a real cover.

The storm has had less of an impact in in the Northern Hemisphere, where the seasons progressed almost as expected.

Streeter presented the results Friday at the virtual National Astronomy Meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society of the United Kingdom. He says Martian dust storms like the one in 2018 will continue to be events worth looking closely.

“It has implications for how the dust settles to the north and the south poles and our understanding of the planet’s climate history. ”

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