Boundary Layer Regimes Conducive to Formation of Dust Devils on Mars

Friday, 19 December 2014
Bryce Williams and Udaysankar S Nair, University of Alabama in Huntsville, Huntsville, AL, United States
Dust devils on Mars contribute to maintenance of background atmospheric aerosol loading and thus dust radiative forcing, which is an important modulator of Martian climate. Dust devils also cause surface erosion and change in surface albedo which impacts radiative energy budget. Thus there is a need for parameterizing dust devil impacts in Martian climate models. In this context it is important to understand environmental conditions that are favorable for formation of dust devils on Mars and associated implications for diurnal, seasonal, and geographical variation of dust devil occurrence. On earth, prior studies show that thresholds of ratio of convective and friction scale velocities may be used to identify boundary layer regimes that are conducive to formation of dust devils. On earth, a w*/u* ratio in excess of 5 is found to be conducive for formation of dust devils. In this study, meteorological observations collected during the Viking Lander mission are used to constrain Martian boundary layer model simulations, which is then used to estimate w*/u* ratio. The w*/u* ratio is computed for several case days during which dust devil occurrence was detected. A majority of dust devils occurred in convective boundary layer regimes characterized by w*/u* ratios exceeding 10. The above described analysis is being extended to other mars mission landing sites and results from the extended analysis will also be presented.