. Mars Exploration News .

Professor says NASA's Martian weather reports show extreme pressure swings
by Staff Writers
Honolulu, HI (SPX) Sep 27, 2012

Image of a dust storm on Mars from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Courtesy Jet Propulsion Lab.

Curiosity, the NASA rover that landed on Mars last month, is sending us remarkable weather observations from the Martian surface that are attracting interest from scientists. "From a weather point of view, Mars is the most 'Earth-like' of the other planets in our solar system, and many features of the weather there are similar to Earth," says Kevin Hamilton, a pioneer in the area of computer modeling of the Martian atmosphere.

Hamilton, who is Director of UH Manoa's International Pacific Research Center and a Professor of Meteorology, noted that Curiosity is the fifth 'Weather Station' on Mars. Over the last 35 years, a total of four NASA probes had reached the Martian surface and returned weather data.

"These earlier observations had shown a large daily cycle in temperature and air pressure on Mars. The atmospheric temperature near the surface of Mars generally varies by more than 37C (100F) between day and night because of the overall thinner Martian atmosphere and lack of oceans and their moderating influence," says Hamilton.

"The exciting new result from Curiosity is a regular and truly enormous swing in atmospheric pressure through each day. Measurements on Earth show a daily swing in pressure of only about one-tenth of 1% of the mean pressure, whereas Curiosity is measuring swings of almost 10% of the daily average pressure.

"We observe such a relative pressure change on Earth only with the passage of an extremely strong hurricane. At the Curiosity site on Mars, this enormous pressure swing occurs regularly every day!"

For Hamilton, these reports of huge pressure swings came as welcome news. Almost 20 years ago, he had predicted that the daily variation on Mars would be particularly large in two "action centers" on the equator located on opposite sides of the Mars.

Unlike the earlier NASA probes, Curiosity landed right in one of the equatorial action centers, where another factor comes into play: a resonance in the Martian atmosphere.

"The idea of resonance is familiar in everyday contexts like pushing a child in a playground swing - if you synchronize your pushes with the natural frequency of the swing, it is easy to send the child high into the air," Hamilton explains.

"In the 1980s, I calculated that on Mars the atmosphere could have a natural frequency with the period of one Martian day.

"The day-night forcing then could excite a very strong resonant response. Incorporating this idea into a sophisticated computer model, I showed that the effect of this resonant response would be most clearly felt in two equatorial action centers and that the pressure swings there should exceed 8% of the mean pressure. The remarkable Curiosity observations provide strong confirmation of a resonant vibration of the global atmosphere."

Hamilton suggests that the daily resonant cycles could play a role in explaining a long-standing mystery on Mars, name

ly how the winds become sufficiently strong to lift enough dust from the surface to create the remarkable global dust storms seen every few years on that planet. "Now that my theory of a daily resonant oscillation seems confirmed, it might help explain the trigger for these dust storms," he said.

Related Links
UH Manoa
Mars News and Information at MarsDaily.com
Lunar Dreams and more

Get Our Free Newsletters Via Email
Buy Advertising Editorial Enquiries


. Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Where is Deimos?
Paris (ESA) Sep 27, 2012
Despite more than a century of observations, the orbit of the Martian moon Deimos is still not known to a high degree of accuracy, but a new study using images taken by ESA's Mars Express orbiter has provided the best orbital model to date. 135 years have passed since Asaph Hall discovered Phobos and Deimos, two small companions of the planet Mars. Since that time, the satellites have been ... read more

China has no timetable for manned moon landing

Senior scientist discusses China's lunar orbiter challenges

NASA sees 'gateway' for space missions

Protection for Moon, Mars astronauts eyed

China's manned spacecraft in final preparations for mid-June launch

China Spacesat gets 18-million-USD gov't support

Tiangong Orbit Change Signals Likely Date for Shenzhou 10

China Focus: Timeline for China's space research revealed

Russia to send all-novice crew to ISS

ATV undocking postponed

Space freighter undocking set for Friday

Crew Members Prepare for Departure

Sharpest-ever Ground-based Images of Pluto and Charon: Proves a Powerful Tool for Exoplanet Discoveries

The Kuiper Belt at 20: Paradigm Changes in Our Knowledge of the Solar System

e2v To Supply Large CMOS Imaging Sensors For Imaging Kuiper Belt Objects

Fly New Horizons through the Kuiper Belt

Titan Shows Surprising Seasonal Changes

Navigating the Seas of Titan

Does Triton Have a Subsurface Ocean?

Saturn and its Largest Moon Reflect Their True Colors

Apple CEO sorry for maps shortcomings

China may toughen laws on 'illegal' mapping: state media

Radar altimetry gains altitude in Venice

Knight Foundation invests to accelerate data projects

Bryan Campen joins XCOR as Director of Media and Public Relations

B612 Wins Funding Support From Prominent Business Leadersy

Cavenauts return to Earth

Brazil unveils tax incentives to boost tech innovation

The Magnetic Wakes of Pulsar Planets

Stagnant Interiors Suppress Chances of Life on Super-Earths

Meteors Might Add Methane to Exoplanet Atmospheres

Two 'hot Jupiters' found in star cluster: NASA

Memory Foam Mattress Review

Newsletters :: SpaceDaily Express :: SpaceWar Express :: TerraDaily Express :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News


The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2012 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement