Snowstorms lashing down at the northern hemisphere of Mars during the icy cold winters may be predicted several weeks in advance, say researchers from the Tohoku University in Sendai (Japan) and the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Katlenburg-Lindau (Germany) in their newest publication.
In winter a layer of frozen carbon dioxide covers the Martian North Pole. Approximately 50 percent of this ice cap falls to the ground as snow. This image was taken by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in 2006. © NASA
For the first time, the scientists' calculations show a connection between these snowfalls and a special Martian weather phenomenon: fluctuations of pressure, temperature, wind speeds, and directions that in the northern hemisphere propagate in a wave-like manner and occur very regularly. For missions to the red planet exploring this region with rovers, such weather forecasts would offer the possibility of choosing a route that avoids heavy snow storms.The Martian polar regions are an icy cold world. Similar to those on Earth they are covered by cohesive ice caps. In winter, when the temperatures drop below -128 degrees Celcius, this layer of ice is mainly supplied by frozen carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The ice caps then cover a region reaching south to about 70 degrees northern latitude. Only in the comparably warm Martian summer the carbon dioxide sublimates revealing the planet's eternal ice: a considerably smaller cap of frozen water.
Geophysical Research Letters, Vol. 40, 1-5, 29 April 2013
Dr. Birgit Krummheuer | Max-Planck-Institute
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