TEMPERATURE SWINGS: MARS VS. EARTH

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They are greater on Mars, but can be almost as great on Earth. (Updated 2/5/2013)

Large daily temperature swings on Mars are perceived as evidence that the Martian atmosphere is much thinner than Earth’s. Elsewhere on this site we challenge the accuracy of pressure transducers, anemometers and the relative humidity sensor on MSL, but we have rarely challenged temperature readings. An exception is with ground temperatures offered by JPL for MSL Sols 10 to 11 (see Figure 1). Whereas the sensor capable of measuring ground temperature broke on landing, the 168.8° Fahrenheit swing between 37° F and -131.8° F is questionable. What has been published so far for all the rest of the first six months of MSL operation are air temperatures. On Figure 1 the air temperature swing between 28° F and -103° F is only 131° F. How does this compare with the biggest swing seen on Earth? On January 15, 1972, in Loma, Montana (elevation 2,575 feet/785 meters) the temperature rose from temperature 103° F (57.2° C) from -54° F (-48° C) to 49° F  (9° C) due to a regional Chinook wind in action.[2] So the record change on Earth is 78.6% of what we see for an air temperature swing on Figure 1. 

COMPARISON OF TEMPERATURE SWINGS AT MSL WITH LOMA, MONTANA UP THROUGH MSL SOL 177 (Ls 257).  A few days during MSL’s first 6 months on Mars had temperature swings more similar to that mentioned above for Loma, Montana on January 15, 1972. The first date in question is Sol 19 with a reported high temperature of -18 C. This high was 11 degrees Celsius colder than any other high reported by REMS or Ashima, and it was relatively early in the reporting efforts when I suspect that something was not yet calibrated, or arranged for reporting  purposes. The low on Sol 19 was -78° C, so the temperature range was just 60° C (108° F). The lowest range reported by MSL was for MSL Sol 132 when temperatures ranged from a high of -6.8° C to a low of -65.4° C, which is a drop of 58.6° C (105.48° F). This is quite close to the range of 103° F seen at Loma. Montana. The record for temperatures swings for this period is as follows:


SOL

HIGH

LOW

Change C

Change F

Sol numbering




degrees

Degrees

error/comment

15

-1

-78

77

138.6


16

0

-76

76

136.8


17

No report

No report

No report

No report


18

No report

No report

No report

No report


19

-18

-78

60

108


20

No report

No report

No report

No report


21

0

-73

73

131.4


22

3

-70

73

131.4


23

0

-73

73

131.4


24

0

-75

75

135


25

2

-75

77

138.6


26

-1

-76

75

135


27

-6

-75

69

124.2


28

-7

-75

68

122.4


29

-2

-75

73

131.4


30

-3

-74

71

127.8


31

No report

No report

No report

No report


32

-2

-73

71

127.8


33

No report

No report

No report

No report


34

0

-75

75

135


35

-2

-73

71

127.8


36

5

-73

78

140.4


37

0

-73

73

131.4


38

-3

-73

70

126


39

-3

-75

72

129.6


40

2

-75

77

138.6


41

2

-75

77

138.6


42

5

-75

80

144


43

3

-73

76

136.8


44

3.9

-75

78.9

142.02


45

2.9

-74

76.9

138.42


46

4

-74

78

140.4


47

6

-75

81

145.8


48

4

-75

79

142.2


49

4.4

-74

78.4

141.12


50

0

-72

72

129.6


51

2.5

-76

78.5

141.3


52

7

-74

81

145.8

Greatest change

53

5

-71

76

136.8


54

5

-73

78

140.4


55

-1

-74

73

131.4


56

-3.8

-73.5

69.7

125.46


57

-3.8

-73

69.2

124.56


58

-3

-74

71

127.8


59

-1

-76

75

135


60

-2

-75

73

131.4


61

-1

-72

71

127.8


62

-1

-72

71

127.8


63

-1

-74

73

131.4


64

-1

-74

73

131.4


65

-2

-72

70

126


66

-2

-73

71

127.8


67

-5

-73

68

122.4


68

-1

-68

67

120.6


69

No report

No report

No report

No report


70

1

-72

73

131.4


71

-2

-74

72

129.6


72

-2

-74

72

129.6


73

0

-70

70

126


74

-5

-72

67

120.6


75

-1

-73

72

129.6


76

-1

-72

71

127.8


77

-1

-72

71

127.8


78

0

-71

71

127.8


79

-2

-73

71

127.8


80

-1

-73

72

129.6


81

-1.5

-72

70.5

126.9


82

-0.4

-72

71.6

128.88


83

-0.5

-72.5

72

129.6


84

-0.5

-70

69.5

125.1


85

-0.9

-71.4

70.5

126.9


86

-4

-71

67

120.6


87

-4

-70

66

118.8


88

No report

No report

No report

No report


89

-1

-73

72

129.6


90

-0.4

-71.2

70.8

127.44


91

-0.8

-73.8

73

131.4


92

0

-74

74

133.2


93

0

-71

71

127.8

89

94

0

-71

71

127.8

89

95

No report

No report

No report

No report


96

2

-70

72

129.6


97

-3

-68

65

117


98

-1

-68

67

120.6


99

-1

-68

67

120.6


100

No report

No report

No report

No report


101

No report

No report

No report

No report


102

8

-67

75

135


103

No report

No report

No report

No report


104

4.7

-67

71.7

129.06


105

No report

No report

No report

No report


106

No report

No report

No report

No report


107

No report

No report

No report

No report


108

5

-65

70

126


109

No report

No report

No report

No report


110

No report

No report

No report

No report


111

5

-66

71

127.8


112

3

-66

69

124.2


113

3

-66.11

69.11

124.398


114

3

-69

72

129.6


115

1.3

-67

68.3

122.94


116

5

-67

72

129.6


117

3.45

-66.37

69.82

125.676


118

4.53

-65.19

69.72

125.496


119

3.12

-66.22

69.34

124.812


120

5.91

-66.67

72.58

130.644


121

1.31

-64.1

65.41

117.738


122

No report

No report

No report

No report


123

2.1

-65.7

67.8

122.04


124

5.4

-65.5

70.9

127.62


125

3.4

-63.8

67.2

120.96


126

-5

-67

62

111.6


127

2

-67

69

124.2


128

-4

-67

63

113.4


129

-4

-66

62

111.6


130

-6

-66

60

108


131

-7

-66

59

106.2


132

-6.8

-65.4

58.6

105.48

Lowest change

133

0.6

-65.4

66

118.8


134

-0.62

-66.79

66.17

119.106


135

-4.66

-64.88

60.22

108.396


136

No report

No report

No report

No report


137

No report

No report

No report

No report


138

No report

No report

No report

No report


139

No report

No report

No report

No report


140

No report

No report

No report

No report


141

No report

No report

No report

No report


142

No report

No report

No report

No report


143

-3

-64

61

109.8

144

144

-1

-65

64

115.2

144

145

No report

No report

No report

No report


146

-2

-65

63

113.4


147

No report

No report

No report

No report


148

No report

No report

No report

No report


149

3

-65

68

122.4


150

2

-64

66

118.8


151

1

-65

66

118.8


152

3.85

-62.55

66.4

119.52


153

3

-65

68

122.4


154

1.45

-64.65

66.1

118.98


155

No report

No report

No report

No report


156

1.86

-65.13

66.99

120.582


157

1.75

-64.42

66.17

119.106


158

2.68

-66.47

69.15

124.47


159

3.51

-65

68.51

123.318


160

1.98

-66.69

68.67

123.606


161

0

-65

65

117


162

1

-65

66

118.8


163

0

-65

65

117


164

0.8

-64.72

65.52

117.936


165

0.1

-64.66

64.76

116.568


166

3

-65

68

122.4


167

4

-65

69

124.2


168

5

-66

71

127.8


169

4

-66

70

126


170

No report

No report

No report

No report


171

6

-66

72

129.6


172

6

-66

72

129.6


173

5

-66

71

127.8


174

5.25

-67

72.25

130.05


175

No report

No report

No report

No report


176

5.1

-66.7

71.8

129.24


177

5.2

-66.3

71.5

128.7


Average Celsius

0.461429

-69.946

70.407



Average Fahrenh.

32.83057

 

-93.903


126.733