MARS CORRECT BASIC REPORT - SECTION 9

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Dust Opacy and Pressure, Contradicting Reports by the REMS Team and Malin Space Science Systems - Updated 10/2/2017

9. DUST OPACITY AND PRESSURE

Dust storms can greatly alter the opacity (τ) on Mars.  While (up through MSL Sol 1828) the REMS Team lists all sols at MSL with opacity as “sunny,” this claim is directly contracted by the Malin Space Science Systems (MSSS) in their weekly Martian weather reports at http://www.msss.com/msss_images/subject/weather_reports.html. Figure 36 shows REMS daily reports labelled SUNNY although the Malin reports raise doubts. Table 14 shows 38 weeks of weather reports by MSSS that seem to contradict REMS Team claims of constant sunny skies published for MSL at Gale Crater. Some MSSS reports are not as clear as we would like. Table 14 lists issues that need clarification.

FIGURE 36 BELOW: REMS reports showing only sunny weather for Sols 852 to 858 (December 29, 2014 to January 4, 2015). MSSS commentary is up top.

        On Figure 36 the REMS Team, as always, labels Sol 82 as “SUNNY.” But Malin’s commentary for this week states, “A local scale dust storm was observed originating out of western Elysium tracking southward towards Gale Crater. After reaching and partially obscuring Gale Crater, the storm quickly abated. Curiosity experienced elevated levels of atmospheric opacity during that time.”

 

 

TABLE 14 - Extracts of the MSSS reports that mention cloudy or dusty weather at the Curiosity Rover in Gale Crater, Mars, and weather in equatorial regions where Curiosity is found.  

Terrestrial Week  (Full Martian weather at the link)

Conditions at Curiosity

Issues

30 August 2012 – 2 September 2012  

Water ice clouds continued to dominate the afternoon skies at equatorial latitudes, including at Curiosity.

Do these clouds only form in the afternoon? Are there enough clouds to negate the REMS opacity rating for these sols as "sunny?"

3 September 2012 – 9 September 2012  

Water ice clouds were observed over the Curiosity rover site in Gale Crater.

Are there enough clouds to negate the REMS opacity rating for these sols as "sunny?"

10 September 2012 – 16 September 2012  

Afternoon water ice clouds were observed over equatorial latitudes, including the Curiosity rover site in Gale Crater.

Do these clouds only form in the afternoon? Are there enough clouds to negate the REMS opacity rating for these sols as "sunny?"

17 September 2012 – 23 September 2012  

Aside from a few tenuous water ice clouds, skies over the Curiosity rover site in Gale Crater remained relatively clear.

Sunny or partly cloudy?

24 September 2012 – 30 September 2012  

Scattered water ice cloud cover was observed around the Curiosity rover site in Gale Crater

Sunny or partly cloudy?

8 October 2012 – 14 October 2012  

Aside from scattered, diffuse water ice cloud cover, skies around the Curiosity rover site in Gale Crater remained relatively clear.

Sunny or partly cloudy?

22 October 2012 – 28 October 2012  

Afternoon water ice clouds were observed over equatorial latitudes, including near the Curiosity rover site.

Do these clouds only form in the afternoon? Are there enough to negate the REMS opacity rating for these sols as "sunny?"  

29 October 2012 – 4 November 2012  

(Sols 82 to 88 – See Figure 36)

Water ice clouds persisted over the equatorial latitudes, including near the Curiosity rover site in Gale Crater.

If the clouds persisted, were they present in the morning, or did they only reform in the afternoon?

5 November 2012 – 11 November 2012  

Water ice clouds persisted over the equatorial latitudes, including near the Curiosity rover site in Gale Crater.

Are there enough clouds to negate the REMS opacity rating for these sols as "sunny?"   

12 November 2012 – 18 November 2012  

But both rover sites experienced elevated atmospheric dust levels as a result of the storm, similar to atmospheric opacity levels experienced on typical hazy summer day in Los Angeles. With higher atmospheric dust concentrations came a warming of the thin Martian atmosphere, resulting in a diminishing of water ice cloud cover across the tropics.

Was the sun obscured?

6 May 2013 – 12 May 2013  

Hazy conditions persisted across the southern tropics including the Curiosity site due to continuous storm activity.

Is the hazy condition enough to negate the REMS opacity rating for these sols as "sunny?"  

13 May 2013 – 19 May 2013  

In the southern tropics, skies above the Curiosity rover site in Gale Crater were still murky, but they were beginning to slowly clear.

Is the murky condition enough to negate the REMS opacity rating for these sols as "sunny?"   

20 May 2013 – 26 May 2013  

Clearing afternoon skies observed over the Curiosity rover site in Gale Crater.

Is the morning condition enough to negate the REMS opacity rating of "sunny?"  

27 January 2014 – 2 February 2014  

Water ice clouds were present in the afternoon across the tropics of both hemispheres and over all the major shield volcanoes. Afternoon skies remained storm-free over the Curiosity rover site in Gale.

Since the landers are in the tropics we assume this means there were water ice clouds present. Does the statement that afternoon skies were storm free mean that there was no dust storms, but the skies were not sunny due to ice clouds? 

17 March 2014 – 23 March 2014  

Diffuse water ice clouds dominated the afternoon skies over all the major shield volcanoes, as well as, most tropical latitudes of both hemispheres. Skies were storm-free over Curiosity.

Since the landers are in the tropics we assume this means there were diffuse water ice clouds present. Does the statement that afternoon skies were storm free mean that there was no dust storms, but the skies were not sunny due to ice clouds?   

24 March 2014 – 30 March 2014  

Diffuse water ice clouds, associated with the developing aphelion cloud-belt, were present at equatorial latitudes and over the large shield volcanoes. Afternoon skies continued to remain storm-free over the Curiosity rover site in Gale Crater.

Since the landers are in the tropics we assume this means there were diffuse water ice clouds present. Does the statement that afternoon skies were storm free mean that there was no dust storms, but the skies were not sunny due to ice clouds?    

14 April 2014 – 20 April 2014  

The aphelion water ice cloud belt was present at equatorial latitudes. Skies were relatively clear and storm free over the Curiosity rover site in Gale Crater.

Since the landers are in equatorial latitudes we assume this means there were water ice clouds present. Does the statement that afternoon skies were relatively clear and storm free mean that there was no dust storms, but the skies were partly sunny rather than sunny?   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

23 June 2014 – 29 June 2014  

Water ice clouds reaching altitudes of up to 30 kilometers, continued to be a prominent afternoon feature at tropical latitudes in both hemispheres. One of the first large dust storms of the Martian "regional dust storm season", covering an area greater than four times that of the state of California, began in Hellas Basin. During the next two sols the storm moved to the east, at an average speed of 25 m/s (about 56 mph). The western trailing edge of the storm was observed coming within 1440 kilometers of the Curiosity rover site. Though skies had become dustier over the last couple of months, both rover sites remained storm-free, at Endeavor and Gale crater.

Define the cut off between tropical latitudes (about 25 degrees North or South) and equatorial latitudes. If skies had become dustier over the last couple of months, but both rover sites remained storm-free, at Endeavor and Gale crater at what point does dust lower opacity from sunny to not sunny?

30 June 2014 – 6 July 2014  

The regional storm in Promethei, noted in last week's report, had abated. A second storm developed early in week in Hesperia and moved north across the equator into Isidis in the northern hemisphere. However enough of that dust lofted into the atmosphere by the storm was transported eastward over the Curiosity rover site by the westerly (west-to-east) winds that dominate the tropical circulation.  Both rover sites continued to remain storm-free, at Endeavor and Gale crater. The amount of dust transported was relatively small and had a negligible impact on rover operations and science.

If the storm persisted long enough that dust lofted into the atmosphere by the storm was transported eastward over the Curiosity rover site by the westerly (west-to-east) winds that dominate the tropical circulation, does this imply that it was not sunny?

 

Define "negligible" impact on rover operations and science. HOw does it differ from zero?

20 October 2014 – 26 October 2014  

The widespread dust-lifting activity raised global atmospheric opacities to annual highs, as recorded by the Curiosity. While Curiosity experienced increased atmospheric opacities, it was largely spared from direct contact with storms. However Opportunity, just off to the east of the Acidalia storm-track, was less fortunate and experienced extremely hazy skies due to its proximity to areas of dust-lifting along the cross-equatorial storm track.

Was opacity great enough to imply that this was not a sunny day?

24 November 2014 – 30 November 2014  

The Curiosity continued to experience seasonally elevated dust levels in the atmosphere compared to previous Martian years, despite that skies continued to remain storm-free.

Was opacity great enough to imply that this was not a sunny day?

1 December 2014 – 7 December 2014  

Both the Opportunity rover on Meridiani Planum and the Curiosity rover in Gale Crater experienced dusty but storm-free skies.

Was opacity great enough to imply that this was not a sunny day? 

29 December 2014 – 4 January 2015  

(Sols 852 to 858 – see Figure 37)

Last week on Mars, a local scale dust storm was observed originating out of western Elysium tracking southward towards Gale Crater. After reaching and partially obscuring Gale Crater, the storm quickly abated. Curiosity experienced elevated levels of atmospheric opacity during that time.

Was opacity great enough to imply that this was not a sunny day? 

30 March 2015 – 5 April 2015  

As a result of all the storm activity during the past couple of weeks, the Curiosity experienced dustier skies.

Was opacity great enough to imply that this was not a sunny day? 

23 November 2015 – 29 November 2015  

Condensate water-ice clouds, associated with the developing aphelion cloud-belt, dominated the afternoon equatorial skies. Curiosity experienced storm-free skies each afternoon.

Were the afternoon clouds enough to imply that this was not a sunny day? 

30 November 2015 – 6 December 2015  

Condensate water-ice clouds, associated with the aphelion cloud-belt, dominated the skies at equatorial latitudes. Curiosity in Gale Crater and Opportunity were storm-free.

Were the clouds enough to imply that this was not a sunny day? 

7 December 2015 – 13 December 2015  

The aphelion cloud-belt continued to develop at equatorial latitudes. Gale Crater experienced storm-free skies each sol.

Were the clouds enough to imply that this was not a sunny day? 

14 December 2015 – 20 December 2015  

Sols

The Martian aphelion cloud-belt continued to dominate the afternoon skies over low latitudes. Curiosity encountered storm-free skies.

Were the afternoon clouds enough to imply that this was not a sunny day? 

21 December 2015 – 27 December 2015  

The aphelion cloud-belt continued to expand its presence of water-ice clouds over equatorial regions. Curiosity experienced storm-free skies each sol.

Were the clouds enough to imply that this was not a sunny day? 

25 January 2016 – 31 January 2016  

Curiosity experienced storm-free afternoon skies.

Were the mornings not storm free?

1 February 2016 – 7 February 2016  

The aphelion cloud-belt, composed of diffuse water-ice aerosols, prevailed over the mid-to-low latitudes. Afternoon skies were storm-free each sol over the Curiosity.

 Were the afternoon clouds enough to imply that this was not a sunny day? 

8 February 2016 – 14 February 2016  

The condensate water-ice clouds strewn across the equatorial regions (the aphelion cloud-belt), continued to be the most prominent weather feature on Mars this past week. Storm-free skies persisted over Curiosity.

Were the condensate water-ice clouds strewn across the equatorial regions enough to keep the days from being sunny?

15 February 2016 – 21 February 2016  

Apart from condensate clouds over Gale, skies were relatively clear Curiosity.

Were the condensate clouds enough to keep the sols from being sunny?

26 September 2016 – 2 October 2016  

The Curiosity rover site did experience some elevated atmospheric dust levels due to the dust activity over Elysium Planitia.

Were the dust levels at Curiosity enough to keep the days from being sunny?

27 February 2017 – 5 March 2017  

Equatorial water-ice clouds were at a minimum due to the warmer and dustier conditions. The Curiosity rover in Gale Crater encountered seasonal dust levels on par with previous Martian years.

Were the dust levels enough to keep the days from being sunny?

6 March 2017 – 12 March 2017  

Curiosity rover in Gale Crater experienced storm-free but dusty skies while Opportunity felt the impact of the nearby regional storm throughout the week.

Were the dust levels enough to keep the days from being sunny? What was the nature of the regional storm? Was it a dust storm, a windy storm, or a storm with clouds? 

13 March 2017 – 19 March 2017  

The Curiosity rover in Gale Crater encountered dust levels typical for this time of Mars year.

Gale Crater encountered dust levels typical for this time of Mars year. We need a definition of typical in terms of opacity.

4 September 2017 – 10 September 2017  

Curiosity in Gale Crater experienced scattered water ice cloud cover throughout the week, but remained free of any afternoon dust storm activity.

Curiosity experienced scattered water ice cloud cover throughout the week, but remained free of any afternoon dust storm activity. Ice clouds are different from dust. Was it or was it not sunny in the morning?

       Figure 37 shows visibility for different values of opacity on Mars due to a dust storm at Opportunity between sols 1205 and 1235. All photos were taken between 10:53 and 11:30 local time. The dust in the Martian air over Opportunity blocked 99 percent of direct sunlight.  This fact alone makes it very hard to accept that pressures would be unaffected.

Figure 37 - Opacity changes at Opportunity from sols 1205 to 1235. Redrawn from http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2007-080.

       D. Parsons (2000)80 addresses the compressibility of dust storms and positive feedback for their formation. Pre-dust storm density values are around 9.4 g/m3. A sample dust storm given in the Parsons paper would have additional densities of 17g/m3 in order to even be created.  This is an order of magnitude greater than terrestrial storms.  It also constitutes an increase of at least several hundred percent over previously accepted values.  In the Sahara, pressures have been observed to increase during dust storms.  Likewise when a huge dust storm hit Luke Air Force on July 5, 2011,  pressure rose by 6.6 mbar (more than accepted average pressure at Mars areoid) between the storm’s arrival at 0255Z 6 July 2011 (pressure 1,004.7 mbar) and 0555Z when the pressure was up to 1,011.3 mbar. Pressure dropped as visibility cleared at 0655Z (personal call to Luke AFB meteorology, July 6, 2011).

       The Parsons (2000)80 paper proposes a gravity current analog for dust storms and mentions that such currents should be constrained to the height of the inversion layer (but dust storms on Mars can still have effects at 160 km). Perhaps most important, increased pressure makes it easier to entrain particles (hence higher pressure may explain dust storms and dust devils). 

       Figure 38 is adapted from page 181 in The Martian Climate Revisited by Read and Lewis,79 which states that τ is derived from pressure data. During a Martian year opacity varies greatly.  The clear season is in the northern summer with optical depth τ values of ~0.3 to 0.5. During northern winter τ values of ~2 to 5 or higher were seen during dust storms (see Figure 38).  Black dots are the Year One data, black pluses are the Year Two data, and the red X’s are extrapolations from the pressure data. This is for Viking 1. 

Figure 38 - VL1 Pressure and Opacity, redrawn from Figure 7.2 in The Martian Climate Revisited, Read and Lewis (2004).

THIS REPORT IS CONTINUED AT SECTION 10.