Pressure Drops as MSL Climbs Mt. Sharp vs. Scale Height Predictions.

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Is the data, after documented alterations, too perfect? Updated on 6/26/2017. This article was written by Barry S. Roffman with the earlier technical help of Dr. David A. Roffman on scale height issues. Questions about it should be sent to Barrysroffman@gmail.com.

This article correlates Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) pressures claimed with altitude in meters below areoid, the Martian equivalent to sea level.  The data was originally published by the Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) Team, who work for JPL and NASA. They have not done a proper job of putting this data out, and may in fact be in rebellion to NASA as I write this article. This is suspected because until March 20, 2017 when the REMS Team published ludicrous data they generally went back and revised it - often after reading the critiques that are found in links from Table 1 below. We often find members of the REMS Team and their supervisors on our sites. But after March 20, 2017 the ground temperature lows became insanely cold and were not matched by very cold air temperature lows. The REMS Team ceased making changes, leaving us to guess as to what was going on. We explain this further at our article entitled HAYWIRE GROUND TEMPERATURES IN SUMMER OF MSL YEAR 3.

For now let it be known that the REMS Team and NASA come here many times each week to both check on how their results are being received, and at times to see where they need to alter those results in an effort to draw less criticism. They even withdrew all their (never changing) wind data after we contacted JPL’s public relations man Guy Webster and they altered their Gale Crater Mars sunrise and sunset times to match my son David's calculations. David has applied to work for NASA several times, but so far they only choose to read everything we publish, but make no offer – probably in part  because our emphasis is always on scientific accuracy rather than political correctness.

The data base that we have created is superior to that put out by NASA because we show not just what they have claimed, but how they altered their data, in many cases in accordance with our nagging. We prove what we claim by in many cases publishing before and after print-screens that show what they first put out and how they altered it after reading our spreadsheets documenting their claims and our indications of anomalies in pressure and temperature.

Our spreadsheets with before and after print-screens where appropriate are found in the links below on Table 1:

TABLE 1 - WEATHER REPORTS ISSUED BY THE REMS TEAM AND OUR ANALYSIS OF THEM:

MARS SCIENCE LABORATORY DAILY WEATHER REPORTS

MARS SCIENCE LAB SOLS and  LINKS

SOLAR LONGITUDE (Ls)

SEASONS

1-669

 150 to 150

4 SEASONS

670 to 866

151 to 270

WINTER TO SUMMER YEAR 2

865 to 1,020

 270 to 0 (360)

SUMMER YEAR 2

1,019 to 1,213

 0 to 90

FALL YEAR 2

1,213 to 1,392

 90 to 180

WINTER YEAR 2-3

1,392 to 1,534

180 to 270

SPRING YEAR 3

1,534 to 1687

270 to 0 (360)

SUMMER YEAR 3

1688 and onward

0 to 90

FALL YEAR 3

COMPARISONS BETWEEN MSL YEAR 1 AND MSL YEAR 2 DATA FOR THE SAME LS
Pressure and Ultraviolet Radiation    
High Air and Ground Temperatures for MSL  

Note 1: Ground temperature sensor is only accurate to 10K.

Note 2 dated February 5, 2016: There are unexpected ground temperatures at or above freezing for almost every sol for 3 weeks after the start of MSL Year 2's winter.

Low Air and Ground Temperatures for MSL    
Diurnal Air Temperature Variation at MSL    

       Before going any further it should be noted that we have seen the numbering of MSL years is not always the same as what we refer to in the above charts. We label the first year of MSL on Mars as Year 1, but in at least one article we have seen it was referred to as Year 0. However we all agree on the Martian sols (days). On our charts Year 1 began at landing on August 5 to 6, 2012. It lasted 669 sols (until June 24, 2014). Year 2 then began, ending on Sol 1,338 on May 11, 2016.  We are currently in the fall of Year 3.  As I write this article MSL, in the southern hemisphere of Mars, is in the fall season. We have at least 1,731 sols of data minus some critical data for the first 10 sols, and for a few other periods of time. The first look at data comparing some Year 3 and Year 2 is given here as Table 2. Note the small amount of variation in pressure differences. There are 14 sols shown for each year segment. Six of them show pressure differences of 11 pascals (Pa) from one year to the next. The average pressure difference was 11.57 Pa. The smallest difference was 10 Pa and the largest difference was 13. 

 

TABLE 2 : Pressure and altitudes for MSL Years 2 and 3 between Ls 11 and 19:

FIGURE 1 below - Map of Gale Crater with Aeolis Mons rising from the middle of the crater. The MSL landing ellipse is in the northwest corner, about 4,500 meters below areoid. The landing was under 2.5 km from the target.

       Altitudes were derived from a JPL site that can be found by searching for Where Is Curiosity Now? The site at https://mars.nasa.gov/msl/mission/whereistherovernow/ is not as complete as we would like, but there are often 2 meter altitude curves that can be used for interpolation/approximation of altitude. Where we present altitude data, that’s where we found it. During Year 2 for this period between Ls 11 and Ls 18 altitude didn't change by more than a meter - floating between 4,447 and 4,446 meters below areoid. But for Year 3 there was an increase in altitude from about 4,266 to 4,251 meters below areoid. So the Year 3 segment shown started about 181 meters higher than Year 2, and finished about 195 meters higher. Knowing this we can ask, in accordance with scale height calculations, Is it reasonable to have pressures in Year 3 about 11 Pa lower than they were at a lower altitude in Year 2?

       In looking at whether the data is reasonable, or apparently fudged as often seemed to be the case with REMS until about March 20, 2017 (when the REMS Team, aware of our critiques, seemed to go into a rebellion mode) we will want to look at variations in pressure using a scale height calculation to see if the approximately 9 Pa pressure differences each year line up with these pressure differences. More important, we will look at the 11 Pa difference between Year 2 Ls 11 and Year 3 Ls 11.

       During Year 2 the pressure slowly climbed from 859 Pa to 867 Pa (actually reaching 868 Pa the sol before the end point on Sol 1,057). So the rise during this part of MSL Year 2 was about 8 to 9 Pa. Note that the pressure rose rather than fell but the altitude didn't really change by more than a meter from sols 1,041 to 1,056. 

       For Year 3 the pressure rose again, this time (sols 1,711 to 1,725) from 848 Pa to 855 Pa (actually reaching 857 Pa the sol before the end point on Sol 1,726). So that’s a rise of about 7 to 9 Pa for Year 3 – quite similar to what was seen for Year 2 but here the rover is clearly climbing to where average air pressure should be lower if we do not consider seasonal changes.

       In MSL Year 1 for this period pressures ran from about 866 Pa up to 875 Pa. Again, that’s an increase of 9 Pa between sols 374 and 389, but I have not yet been able to find altitude contour maps from that period, so I can't yet definitively comment on how altitude and pressure were, if at all, linked for those sols. However a JPL image shows the rover locations from landing through this period, and it doesn't look like it was more than from about 910 to 1,300 meters from the landing site (about 4,500 meters below areoid). See Figure 1 above to get a feeling for altitudes at Gale Crater.

       Note on Figure 2 below that (due to weather), as NASA reported on March 27, 2015, the landing site had faded from view by then, two and a half years after landing. This would not likely happen if NASA was right about a near-vacuum atmosphere. The expected pressures for altitudes 4,500 meters (Year 1), 4,447 meters (Year 2) and 4,266 to 4,251 meters below areoid (Year 3) are given on Table 3. This calculation will not show the seasonal variation in pressure alleged by NASA (see Figures 3 and 4).

FIGURE 2: The fading of the landing site by 2015. Note: This gif will not be included in the report.

L

 

 

 

 

Figure 3 above: Comparison of scale heights in THE MARTIAN CLIMATE REVISITED and on a NASA web site.

 

       The expected pressures for altitudes 4,500 meters/4.5 km (Year 1), 4,447 meters/4.447 km (Year 2) and 4,266/4.266 km to 4,251meters/4.251 km below areoid (Year 3) are given on Tables 3A (for a scale height of 10.8 km) and Table 3B (for a scale height of 11.1 km).   On both Tables column K provides a ballpark estimate for how to account for the fact that pressures given are for Ls 11 which is not when maximum pressure occurs.  Under Column L highlighted in white numbers with a red background is the amount of pressure drop at Ls 11 from Year 2 to Year 3.
 

            TABLE 3A - PRESSURE CALCULATIONS FOR ALTITUDES DISCUSSED ABOVE USING A SCALE HEIGHT OF 10.8 KM

A

B C D E F G H I J K L
KILOMETERS 10.8 km Scale  RATIO A/B =-EXP(C value) 1/D value PRESSURE PRESSURE IN PREDICTED INITIAL PREDICTED TIME & LS ADJUSTMENT FINAL PREDICTED
  Height (MARS)       MARS BARS MBAR PRESSURE  DROP IN PRESSURE   FOR NOT BEING DROP IN PRESSURE
              IN PA IN PA FROM YEAR 1
  AT MAX PRESSURE LS IN PA FROM 
                LS 11 & PREVIOUS ROW
  859/925.307 = .9283405 YEAR 1 LS 11
MEAN AREOID             0 10.8 0 -1 -1 1 6.1 610     566.287705  
-4.5 10.8 -0.416666667 -0.65924063 -1.516896796 1.516896796 9.253070458 925.3070458 N/A YEAR 1 LS 11 859.0000055 N/A
-4.447 10.8 -0.411759259 -0.662483744 -1.509471001 1.509471001 9.207773109 920.7773109 4.529734933 YEAR 2 LS 11 854.7948692 4.205136392
-4.266 10.8 -0.395 -0.673680039 -1.484384191 1.484384191 9.054743565 905.4743565

19.83268934

(15.30295 from

Year 2 Ls 11)

YEAR 3 LS 11 840.5885168 14.20635234
-4.251 10.8 -0.393611111 -0.674616356 -1.482323977 1.482323977 9.042176261 904.2176261

21.08941968

(1.2567304 from

Year 2 Ls 11)

YEAR 3 LS 18 839.4218431 1.166673674
                       
            TABLE 3B - PRESSURE CALCULATIONS FOR ALTITUDES DISCUSSED ABOVE USING A SCALE HEIGHT OF 11.1 KM
KILOMETERS 11.1 km Scale  RATIO A/B =-EXP(C value) 1/D value PRESSURE PRESSURE IN PREDICTED INITIAL PREDICTED TIME & LS ADJUSTMENT FINAL PREDICTED
  Height (MARS)       MARS BARS MBAR PRESSURE DROP IN PRESSURE   FOR NOT BEING DROP IN PRESSURE
              IN PA IN PA FROM YEAR 1
  AT MAX PRESSURE LS IN PA FROM 
                YEAR 1 & PREVIOUS ROW
  859/925.307 = .9283405 YEAR 1 LS 11
MEAN AREOID             0 11.1 0 -1 -1 1 6.1 610     566.287705  
-4.5 11.1 -0.405405405 -0.66670647 -1.499910449 1.499910449 9.149453737 914.9453737 N/A YEAR 1 LS 11 849.3808457 N/A
-4.447 11.1 -0.400630631 -0.669897455 -1.492765785 1.492765785 9.105871287 910.5871287 4.358244991 YEAR 2 LS 11 845.3349103 4.045935334
-4.266 11.1 -0.384324324 -0.680910556 -1.468621674 1.468621674 8.958592213 895.8592213

19.08615241

(14.72707419 from

Year 2 Ls 11)

YEAR 3 LS 11 831.6623974 13.67251293
-4.251 11.1 -0.382972973 -0.681831327 -1.466638391 1.466638391 8.946494183 894.6494183

20.29595536

(1.20980295 from

Year 2 Ls 11)

YEAR 3 LS 18 830.5392883 1.123109076

       What’s immediately noticeable about Tables 3A and 3B is that the pressure calculated for the landing site altitude matches the maximum pressure (925 Pa) that NASA/JPL/The REMS Team permitted the public to see after they altered the data - in large part in response to higher pressures that they first published which were challenged by us. Table 4 lists some of the changes.

TABLE 4 – Pressures revised by JPL/REMS after we highlighted them or published them in earlier version of our Report

Date

MSL Sol

Ls

Initial Pressure Reported

Pressure for the previous sol

Final Pressure Reported after JPL Revisions

Aug 25, 2012

19

160.4

785 Pa

 

719 Pa– then changed to N/A

Aug 27, 2012

21

161.4

790 Pa

N/A

741 Pa

Sept 1 to Sept

5, 2012

26

164

 742 to 747 hPa

74200 to 74700 (Pa)

743 Pa

745, 743, 745, 747 and 747 Pa

Sep 12, 2012 (This date later changed to 9/11/2012)

36

169.5

799 Pa

749 Pa

750 Pa

Sep 16, 2012

(date later altered)

39

172.3

804 Pa

750 Pa

753 Pa - then changed to 751 Pa 

 

Oct 3, 2012

Series alteration starts here and goes to 10/12/2012

57

181

779 Pa

770 Pa

769 – Pa. Note the steady progression without reversals that were seen between 10/3/2012 and 10/12/2012 in initial results. This series looks very fudged.

Oct 4, 2012

58

182

779 Pa

 

769 Pa

Oct 5, 2012

59

183

781 Pa

 

771 Pa

Oct 6, 2012

60

183

785 Pa

 

772 Pa

Oct 7, 2012

61

184

779 Pa

 

772 Pa

Oct 8, 2012

62

184

782 Pa

 

774 Pa

Oct 9, 2012

63

185

786 Pa

 

775 Pa

Oct 10, 2012

64

186

785 Pa

 

776 Pa

Oct 11, 2012

65

186

785 Pa

 

777 Pa

Oct 12, 2012

66

187

781 Pa

 

778 Pa

Nov 11, 2012

95

204

815.53 Pa

822.43 Pa

822 Pa

Dec 8, 2012

121

221

865.4 Pa

867.5 Pa

869

Feb 19, 2013

192

267

940 Pa – a high until now. Pressures had been declining since a high of 925 Pa in late January 2013.

921

N/A

Feb 22, 2013

195

269

886 Pa – quite a large drop

Last 2 reports were 940 Pa on Feb 19 and 921

Pa on Feb 18, 2012

N/A

Feb 27, 2013

200

272

937 Pa

917 Pa

N/A

May 2, 2013

262

311

900 Pa

868.05 Pa

N/A

Aug 21, 2013

370

9

1,149 Pa

865 Pa

865 Pa

Aug 27, 2014

731

185

754 Pa

771 Pa

771 Pa

Oct 11, 2014

775

211

823 Pa

838 Pa

838 Pa

April 16, 2015

957

326

823 Pa

N/A  - next sol 848 Pa

N/A

Nov 10, 2015

1160

66

1177 Pa

898 Pa

899 Pa

Nov 12, 2015

1161

66

1200 Pa

899 Pa (revised)

898 Pa

April 2, 2016

1300

131

945 Pa

753 Pa

752 Pa

April 3, 2016

1301

131

1154 Pa

753 Pa (2 sols earlier, 751 Pa on Sol 1302

752 Pa

Oct 17, 2016

1492

242

921 Pa

906 Pa

910 Pa

Oct 23, 2016

1498

242

897 Pa

909 Pa

907 Pa

Oct 27, 2016

1502

249

928 Pa

903 Pa

907 Pa

Jan 10, 2017

1575

296

860 Pa

868  Pa

871 Pa

Feb 10, 2017

1605

314

815 Pa

850 Pa

846 Pa

      

       Table 4 shows some of how JPL/REMS altered pressures off the expected curve for August and September 2012 and August 2013 and on through at least June 22, 2017 after we either brought the deviations up to JPL Public Relations Director Guy Webster, or published on our data on davidaroffman.com and marscorrect.com websites. Those pressures that were originally above 925 Pa are shown with a yellow shading. The significance of Table 4 is that it lets us know that there is an agenda to keep pressure reported for MSL either at or below the 925 Pa indicated by the scale height calculation on Tables 3A and 3B.

       As can be seen from Figure 4, a maximum pressure of 925 Pa was seen in MSL Year 1 at Ls 252 and 253 (Sols 170 &171). In MSL Year 2 this same pressure was attained at Ls 257 (Sol 846). If, for the moment, we overlook the 925 pressure maximum allowed by JPL or whoever is behind the data alteration, then it should be noted that Table 2 only deals with pressures produced in MSL Year 3 between Ls 11 and 19.  At Ls 11 in Year 1 the pressure given by the REMS Team was 866 Pa. This is about 92.83405% of the maximum pressure of 925 Pa (actually, 925.307 Pa)  Now let's use that figure to look at what happened from Ls 11 in Year 2 to Ls 11 in Year 3. There was an increase in altitude of 181 meters and a decrease in predicted pressure of about 15.30295 Pa (Table 3A, cell H8-H9), but the actual decrease in pressure was only 11 Pa. However, if the proportional idea is correct and we take 92.83405% of the predicted drop of 15.30395 Pa, then we revise it to a predicted pressure drop of 14.206 Pa. That's quite close to the 11 Pa supposedly measured (5 sols later there was a 13 Pa decrease from Year 2). The predicted and measured differences are clearly in the same ball park, but does this mean that NASA is correct - or does it mean that the data was manufactured by someone who knew how to calculate scale height?

        Now, let's dig a little deeper here with the help of Figure 3. While modern textbooks like The Martian Climate Revisited use a scale height of 10.8, old sources use 11.1 and this figure is on the NASA webs site visited. The information looks old, mentioning Viking 1 and none of the landers since then in 1976. What happens if we assume that someone was tasked with predicting, i.e., manufacturing pressures for MSL based on the altitude change from MSL Year 2 to Year 3? Then the predicted pressure decrease (with Ls11 factored in) becomes only 13.67 Pa! A Pascal is only a hundredth of a millibar. We see that on 4 sols between Ls 11 and Ls 18 the actual pressure drop from Year 2 to Year 3 was 13 Pa.

       Given that NASA only sent a pressure transducer that could measure up to 1150 Pa, and that, as Table 4 shows, they often reported pressures above 925 Pa, and even above 1150 Pa only to revise them down when we challenged them, there is again reason to question the reliability of the data reported. Lately NASA has returned to our site to view the CAD for the pressure transducer used on Mars Pathfinder. This CAD, shown again as Figure 6, is often visited by other space agencies too. What it shows is that two transducers were ordered by NASA for Pathfinder. One of them (Tavis - 2) was for the expected pressure range of 0 to 12 mbar (1200 Pa/0.174 PSIA). But the other transducer (Tavis -1) was designed to measure up to 1,034 mbar (103,400 Pa/15 PSIA). That's higher air pressure than is found at sea level on Earth.  

       While we hope our audit of NASA data will lead to organizational reform rather than any kind of legal action, if it ever does go legal then the first thing we would subpoena is documentation for what happened to that sensor. Did it really stay back on Earth, or was it secretly flown to Mars? Whereas Martian weather simply does not match the low pressures advocated by NASA, and especially because NASA has for a long time visited our web sites daily, we are confident that a full investigation will reveal that are we are again quite right, and that it's time for a new announcement from NASA indicating what the true pressure is there. See Annex G of our report for further details about the Tavis transducers ordered by NASA.

FIGURE 4 - Pressure curve for MSL Year 1 and beyond to LS 270.

 

Figure 5 - Comparison of pressure readings by Viking 1, Viking 2, Mars Phoenix, and MSL.

 

FIGURE 6 - CAD for Mars Pathfinder showing the order of two very different pressure transducers for the mission.