Date of Award

2015

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Atmospheric Science

Committee Chair

Udaysankar S. Nair

Committee Member

Richard T. McNider

Committee Member

Kevin Knupp

Subject(s)

Mars Exploration Rover Mission (U.S.), Boundary layer (Meteorology), Dust devils--Mars., Mars (Planet)--Dust storms.

Abstract

Dust devils on Mars contribute to background atmospheric dust opacity and the resulting radiative forcing is an important modulator of Martian climate. In this context it is important to understand diurnal, seasonal, and geographical variation of dust devil occurrence on Mars. Boundary layer regimes conducive to dust devil formation on Earth are characterized by the ratio of convective to friction scaling velocities (w_*⁄u_* ) greater than 5. Boundary layer modeling, constrained using in situ observations from Mars lander and rover missions, is used to estimate w_*⁄u_* for dust devils events imaged or inferred during the missions. Analysis conducted for 261 events shows that Martian boundary layer regimes conducive to formation of dust devils are defined by w_*⁄u_* ratios greater than 7.4. This threshold is used to infer diurnal, seasonal and geographic variability of dust devil formation potential on Mars. This methodology is able to explain major features of temporal and spatial variability of dust devils on Mars.

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