CORRECT GCM, DYING BATTERY, OR FALSE DATA?

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Matches a Little Too Good to be Real? Updated 2/8/2015

Figure 1 below is taken from the S. M. Nelli (2009) et al. paper, Reproducing Meteorological Observations at the Mars Phoenix Lander Site Using NASA Ames GCM (General Circulation Model). It shows a steady drop from 8.5 to 7.4 mbar that looks suspiciously like the graph of a dying battery.  Phoenix had such batteries, which needed to be recharged by daily sunshine.  As the sun faded with time, the batteries did die.  We might expect that varying weather patterns would produce a more varied pressure pattern.  What is seen is almost a straight line, despite the the fact that recorded highs remained about the same every day (about 240 K).  The area shaded in yellow is from before the Phoenix landed.  It only included General Circulation Model (GCM) simulated data. Update note of 8 February 2015: There is now an on-line report that Phoenix ceased transmitting on 2 November 2008 when ice that built up on the solar arrays broke themThe asssertion that the ice was frozen carbon dioxide may well be incorrect. Most water ice at the north pole and Martian arctic is water ice. 

FIGURE 1 ABOVE: PRESSURE AT THE PHOENIX LANDING SITE

     When I published my Mars Report in 2009, as I wrote in the paragraph above and on the figure above, I thought the slope of waning pressures between the Phoenix landing (its sol 0, Martian Sol 164) and the end of its pressure recordings around its sol 125 (Martian Sol 289) looked too perfect to be real.  It looked more like the graph of a dying battery.  However, when I laid the ends of its Phoenix pressure points on top of a graph of Viking 1 and 2 pressures for operations starting back in 1976, I found that the slopes were all just about identical for the same time of Martian year.  What does this indicate? Probably not a dying battery.  There are only two other possibilities:

     (1) The data is real and Martian pressures almost precisely the same from year to year, with only slight variations that depend on whether or not there is a dust storm occurring; or

     (2) The data is manipulated, with values chosen to look right based on legacy data.

      Data obtained from scale height calculations and comparison of dust devils based on those calculations will be offered on this site as evidence that the second possibility just listed cannot be lightly dismissed.

FIGURE 2 BELOW: COMBINED PRESSURE DATA FOR VIKING 1, VIKING 2, AND PHOENIX.

 

    At the core of the argument that the Phoenix pressure graph  by S. M. Nelli et al. (2009) matches the General Circulation Model (GCM), is the idea that Phoenix landed in the Northern Martian Arctic in Martian spring and early summer.  It operated until the late summer, but these periods correspond to the late fall through winter at the South Pole. During the Martian late fall to winter at the South Pole, carbon dioxide would have allegedly precipitated out, thus reducing air pressure all over the planet.  
      So let's assume that the Viking graphs are correct.  How much of a pressure drop is seen? Table 1 indicates that it is far more than what could be accounted for by the South Pole sublimating or freezing:

 

LANDER


LANDING LATITUDE

LANDING ELEVATION BASED ON MOLA

MAX PRESSURE

(Winter in North, Summer in South)

MINIMUM PRESSURE

(Winter in South,

Summer in North)

 

MAXIMUM CHANGE IN PRESSURE

(Note – Maximum pressure change [rise] would be 0.36 mbar if all South Pole CO2 ice sublimates).

VIKING 1

22.48 O NORTH

-3,637 m

8.9 to 9.0 mbar

(Winter in North, Summer in South)

6.9 mbar

(Winter in South, Summer in North)

2.1mbar

VIKING 2

47.97 O NORTH

-4,495 m

10.0 to 10.1 mbar

(Winter in North, Summer in South)

7.5 mbar

(Winter in South,

Summer in North)

2.6 mbar

PHOENIX

68 O NORTH

-4,126 m

Phoenix, unlike the Vikings, did not survive for multiple years.  It only operated during the spring to late summer.  During that time, it experienced its   maximum pressure (about 8.5 mbar) during its late spring when it was late fall at the South Pole.

7.3 mbar

(Winter in South,

Summer in North)

1.2 mbar (only over about 125 sols out of 669 in a Martian year)

 

 

 

FIGURE 3A (FOR VIKING 1) AND 3B (FOR VIKING 2) BELOW: EXTRACT FROM FIGURE 2 ABOVE EMPHASIZING IDENTICAL PRESSURES ON THE SAME DAY IN DIFFERENT YEARS FOR VIKINGS 1 AND 2.

     When is the dust storm season on Mars?  The Mars Planetary Data Base has it between Ls 180° and 360°. But the Planetary Society states that the Mars dust storm season begins just after perihelion at around Ls = 260°.  However, The Martian Climate Revisited states that, "throughout observational history, storms which grew into plane-circling  or global events have only been found within the approximate ranges of 190° Ls 310°, corresponding to the seasons either side of the southern hemisphere summer and perihelion. This is shown in the orange shaded area on the orbital schematic diagram below (Figure 4E). 

     Dust storms are not to be confused with dust devils, which are much smaller events. For the dust devil pressure drop measured by Pathfinder (marked by a red A), use sol 25 (Martian days after landing) + 304 (sol of landing day), which means Sol 329.  For the dust devil pressure drop measured by Phoenix (marked by a red B), use sol 13 (Martian days after landing) + 164 (sol of landing day), which means Sol 177

     Note that perihelion, the closest approach of Mars to the sun, is at Ls 251o, when it is late spring in the northern hemisphere and late fall in the southern hemisphere.  Mars to closer to the sun in its southern summer (northern winter); and farther away from it in its northern summer (southern winter). The dust devil recorded by Mars Pathfinder (A) showed a pressure drop from about 6.74 mbar to 6.7 mbar. The dust devil recorded by Phoenix (B) showed a pressure drop from 8.425 mbar to 8.422 mbar.   Both dust devils were in the northern hemisphere, however if we ask what season it was at the South Pole when these events occurred, for the overall higher pressure event at Phoenix (B), it was Sol 177, in month 3 which would be late fall, but not yet winter. For the overall lower pressure event of Pathfinder in its late summer (A), it was Sol 329, in month 6, which would be late winter at the South Pole. 

     The dust devil at pressure ~6.7 mbar recorded by Pathfinder occured at almost exactly the pressure and time or year that was in accordance with the rate of pressure less for Phoenix.  Phoenix started the mission recording pressures of about 8.5 mbar, and finished it at about 7.3 mbar. The slope of its rate of pressure loss was duplicated by this writer and inserted parallel to it, but about 0.35 mbar below.  Why? Phoenix landed at a lower altitude than Pathfinder.  Pathfinder set down at 3,682 meters below the mean areoid where pressure would be about 0.35 mbar lower than what would be expected at Phoenix, which set down at 4,126 meters below the mean aeroid.  Calculations were based on a scale height of 10.8.

    The Mars time is derived from an on-line calculator at http://www-mars.lmd.jussieu.fr/mars/time/martian_time.html. 


 

FIGURES 4A TO 4E (BELOW): PHOENIX PRESSURE READINGS, PROJECTED PRESSURES FOR AFTER PHOENIX OPERATIONS, MARTIAN ORBITAL SCHEMATIC, AND DUST DEVIL MEASUREMENTS BY PHOENIX AND PATHFINDER

Figures 5a to 5C - Dust devil temperature and pressure data at Phoenix and Pathfinder