Recent research suggests that mineral dust plays an important role in terrestrial weather and climate, not only by altering the atmospheric radiation budget, but also by affecting cloud microphysics and optical properties. In addition, dust transport and related Aeolian processes have been substantially modifying the surface of Mars. Dusty convective plumes and dust devils are frequently observed in terrestrial deserts and are ubiquitous features of the Martian landscape. There is evidence that they are important sources of atmospheric dust on both planets. Many studies have shown that on a small scale, dust sourcing is sensitive to a large number of factors, such as soil cover, physical characteristics, composition, topography, and weather. We have been doing comparative studies of dust events on Earth and Mars in order to shed light on important physical processes of the weather and climate of both planets. Our 2002 field campaign showed that terrestrial dust devils produce heat and dust fluxes two and five orders of magnitude larger than their background values. It also showed that charge separation within terrestrial dust devils produces strong electric fields that might play a significant role in dust sourcing. Since Martian dust devils and dust storms are stronger and larger than terrestrial events, they probably produce even stronger fluxes and electric fields.
- mars orbiter camera