MARTIAN GLOBAL DUST STORMS & MICROORGANISMS

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Martian dust storm formation might have a biological factor. This page under construction on 7/20/2018.

        Our interests center on Mars and in learning how to safely explore it and exploit its resources. As such we will examine in detail what's known about the current (2018) Global Dust Storm that is blacking out the sky at the Mars Expedition Rover (MER) Opportunity and at the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Curiosity Rover. There are two versions of this article. One, written by my father, includes the Torah Code. Ths one, published conjunctimn with him and our Italian partner, Marco de Marco, leaves Codes out. Marco is opposed to manned landings on Mars because he worries about cross biological contamination of both worlds. Before studying the dust storm issue my father and I tended to dismiss that threat. But if biological organisms are playing a role in dust lifting on Mars, then we would have to urge NASA to proceed with extreme caution. The hypothesis that there is a link between primitive life and lifting of dust is my father's. The suggestive evidence that he discusses wil be brought forward and examined here. Both versions of the article will be updated on a continuing basis as new information comes out, especially after the end of the 2018 Martian Global Dust Storm. In this version of the article we will first examine the most widely accepted explanation of dust storms on Mars - Saltation. Saltation occurs when large particles are briefly lifted into air by surface winds, and then soon fall out by sedimentation. On impact with the surface, they may dislodge smaller particles and lift them into the air.  Read and Lewis indicate that the velocity that fine sand (~ 100 μm) would have on impact is only about 50 to 80 cm per second (1.8 to 2.88 kph).2

Footnotes for this section:

1 Bagnold, R. A. (1954). The Physics of Blown Sand and Desert Dunes. London, Methuen.

2 Read, P. L., & Lewis, S. R. (2004). The Martian Climate Revisited, Atmosphere and Environment of a Desert Planet, Chichester, UK: Praxis.

       Balme and Greeley3 state, “The Martian atmosphere is thinner than Earth’s… so much higher wind speeds are required to pick up sand or dust on Mars.  Wind tunnel studies have shown that, like Earth, particles with diameter 80-100 μm (fine sand) are the easiest to move, having the lowest static threshold friction velocity, and that larger and smaller particles require stronger winds to entrain them into the flow.  However, much of Mars’ atmospheric dust load is very small, and the boundary layer wind speeds required to entrain such fine material are in excess of those measured at the surface (Magalhaes et al., 1999).2 Nevertheless, fine dust is somehow being injected into the atmosphere to support… haze and … local… and global… dust storms.”

       The problem of dust particle size is more serious than indicated above.  Optimum particle size for direct lifting by the wind (with the lowest threshold velocity) is around 90 μm. This requires a wind at 5 meters altitude to be around 30-40 m/s. For smaller particles like the 1 μm size dust typically suspended in the air over Mars, the threshold velocity is extremely high, requiring enormous wind speeds (>500 m/s) at 5 m altitude which would never occur.  It is thus argued that saltation must be crucial to the lifting of very small particles into the air (Read and Lewis, 2004, 190).34

3 Balme, M., Greeley R. (2006), Dust devils on Earth and Mars, Review Geophysics., 44, RG3003,doi:10.1029/2005RG000188. http://gaspra.la.asu.edu/dustdevil/proceed/Balme_and_Greeley_DD_ms.pdf

4 Magalhaes, J.A., Schofield, J.T., & Seiff, A. (1999). Results of the Mars Pathfinder atmospheric structure investigation, J. Physics. Res., 104,  8943-8955

In summary with respect to saltation on Mars, the problem is that the wind speeds do not appear to be great enough to lift the dust if it is only 1 μm. However if bacteria cling to the dust, then the combined particle size will grow. On bacterial cells range from about 1 to 10 microns in length and from 0.2 to 1 micron in width.

 

Figure 1 above - Possible correlation between radioactive hot spots and dust storm origination on Mars? Figure 2 below - Spread of the 2018 Mars Global Dust Storm from north of the Opportunity Rover to the MSL Curiosity Rover.

 

 WEATHER AT MSL FOR SOLS SHOWN IN FIGURE 3. On Table 1 column subjects and color codings are as follows:

Column A (Sol). The Martian day is about 39 minutes longer than the terrestrial day.

Column B is solar longitude (Ls). MSL is in the Southern Hemisphere on Mars. The landing was at Ls 150 in winter. Ls 180 begins the spring there.  Ls 270 starts summer, Ls 0 starts the fall. Ls 90 starts the winter.

Column C shows the pressure reported by the REMS Team.

Column D shows the date on Earth.

Column E shows the maximum air temperature. With respect to the freezing point, from 0° C at 1 atm pressure it will increase up to 0.01° C at 0.006 atm (which is about the average pressure on Mars as given by NASA). This is the triple point of water. At pressures below this, water will never be liquid. It will change directly between solid and gas phase (sublimation). The temperature for this phase change, the sublimation point, will decrease as the pressure is further decreased

Column F shows minimum air temperature.

Column G shows the air temperature range for each sol. On Earth temperatures can vary by 40 °C in deserts. In column G where the range is 59 °C or less yellow background coloring points that out. The National Park Service claims the world record in a diurnal temperature variation is 102 °F (57 °C) (from 46 °F (8 °C) to −56 °F (−49 °C)) in Browning, Montana (elevation 4,377 feet/1,334 meters) on January 23 to 24, 1916. There were 2 days in Montana where the temperature changed by 57 °C.

Column H shows temperature range divided by 40. This allows us to compare terrestrial deserts with Gale Crater, Mars. How much cooling occurs at night is related to the density of the atmosphere. Here we see the ratio of cooling on a Mars sol to the typical 40 °C cooling figure for Earth's deserts shown with a green background when that ratio is under 1.5. For MSL Year 1 when we altered the devisor from 40 °C  to 57 °C then 88 of the ratios were altered to 1 or less than 1, meaning that Martian air pressure is indeed likely much higher than NASA claims.

Column I shows maximum ground temperature. As with terrestrial deserts, the ground on Mars heats more during the day than the air does, and it cools more at night than the air does. In Column K when the maximum ground temperature is given by REMS is above 0°C it is shown with a red background.

Column J shows the minimum ground temperature. When it is -90 °C or colder the background is in purple. The ground temperatures are not very precise. The requirement was to measure ground brightness temperature over the range from 150 to 300 K with a resolution of 2 K and an accuracy of 10 K

Column K. Drop in ground temperature from day to night.

Column L shows the increase in temperature from the mast 1.5 meters above the ground down to the ground during the daylight hours. In column N anytime there is an increase in temperature of 11 °C or more this in indicated with a dark blue background.

 

Column M shows the decrease in temperature from the ground to the air at nights. If the data were valid we would expect similar heating or cooling to occur over the set distance from ground to boom. A quick survey of the data immediately shows that this was not found. In column L we see a variation in heating between 0 °C and at least 15 °C with a 54 °C anomaly on Sol 1,070. For nighttime cooling any variation from 11°C to 19°C is shown with a medium blue background. More than that is shown with a dark blue background.

Column N shows the pressure for the same Ls in MSL Year 1.

Column O shows the absolute value of the change in pressure in Pascals from the same Ls in the previous year (Column [M] - [C]).

Column P shows the original pressure for the same Ls in MSL Year 1 before JPL revised their data.

Column Q shows the Ls during Year 1.

Column R shows the UV for the sol in Year 2.

Column S shows the UV for the sol in Year 1. All sols in MSL Year 1 and Year 2 have opacity listed as “sunny” which seems dubious.

Column T shows comments, if any.

 

 

TABLE 1- WEATHER FOR DUST STORM SOLS SHOWN ON FIGURE 3

A

B

C

D

E

F

G

H

I

J

 K

L M N O P R S

T

U

 

SOL

~LS

PRESSURE Pa   

EARTH DATE

MAX AIR TEMP °C   

MIN AIR TEMP °C

AIR TEMP RANGE °C

AIR TEMP RANGE °C/40

MAX GROUND TEMP °C

MIN GROUND

TEMP °C

∆ GROUND TEMP DAY    TO NIGHT

DAYTIME CHANGE IN TEMP °C  AIR TO GROUND

NIGHTTIME CHANGE IN TEMP °C AIR TO GROUND

PRESSURE AT SAME LS IN MSL YEAR 3

∆ PRESSURE YEAR 4 TO YEAR 3 SAME LS 

~LS year 3

UV

YR


UV

YR

3

MSL YEAR 3 SOL FOR THIS LS/

COMMENTS

MSL Altitude meters  below areoid

           

YELLOW IF <60 °C

GREEN IF<1.5

RED IF

> 0 °C

PURPLE = >-90°C OR COLDER

YELLOW NUMBERS = -80 to -89 °C,

red background = -90°C or colder drop

BLUE = >10°C

PURPLE = >10°C

  YELLOW = 
> 7 Pa)
         
2069 185 756 6/1/2018 4 -71 75 1.875 16 -84 -100 12  -13  770  -14 185  H H  (1401)   -4,192 
2075 189 762 6/8/2018 3 -69 72  1.8  15 -79 -94 12 -10 779 -17  189  H H  (1407) -4,192 
2080 192 768 6/13/2018 2 -67 69  1.725  11 -70  -81 9  -3 782  -14 192 H H  (1412) -4,192 
2081 192  770

6/14/2018

Dust storm

-3 -69  66 1.65  6 -71   -77 9  -2 784  -14  193 M H  (1413) 

-4,192 

 

2084 194 771

6/17/2018

Dust storm

-21 -65 44 1.1 -14 -58 -44 7 +7 791 -20 194 L  H  (1416) 

-4,192 

2089 197  779

6/22/2018

Dust storm

 
-26 -59 33 0.825   -15 -59 -44  11 0  797 -18 197 L  H 

(1421) 

-4,192

SOL

~LS

PRESSURE Pa  

EARTH DATE 

MAX

AIR

TEMP

°C 

 

MIN

AIR

TEMP

°C

 

AIR

TEMP

RANGE

°C

 

AIR

TEMP

RANGE

°C/40

 

MAX

GROUND

TEMP °C

 

MIN

GROUND

TEMP °C

 

∆ GROUND

TEMP

DAY

TO

NIGHT

 

DAYTIME

CHANGE

IN TEMP 

°C AIR

TO GROUND

 

NIGHTTIME

CHANGE

IN TEMP

°C AIR TO

GROUND

PRESSURE AT SAME   LS IN MSL  LAST YEAR
∆ PRESSURE LAST YEAR  TO THIS YEAR SAME LS  ~LS Last Year
UV YR 4

UV YR   3)

 

DOES LIFE EXIST ON DUST ON EARTH? Yes. Wikipedia states of dust mites that, "They are generally found on the floor and other surfaces until disturbed (by walking, for example). It could take somewhere between twenty minutes and two hours for dust mites to settle back down out of the air." In fact, at Smithsonian.com we learn that:

Microbes have been found in the skies since Darwin collected windswept dust aboard the H.M.S. Beagle 1,000 miles west of Africa in the 1830s. But technologies for DNA analysis, high-altitude collection and atmospheric modeling are giving scientists a new look at crowded life high above Earth. For instance, recent research suggests that microbes are hidden players in the atmosphere, making clouds, causing rain, spreading diseases between continents and maybe even changing climates.
 
       So the idea that microbes could play a role in Martian dust storms is not as strange as it might appear. However, it's a long way from dust that just carries thoughtless bacteria to something as sinister as the dust storrm portrayed in the film Mission to Mars.

 TIMING  OF SPAWNING ON EARTH.  We are interested in whether, if there is microscopic life on Mars, there might be a mass spawing that occurs in conjunction with the rising dust.

       On Earth mass coral spawning is an annual phenomenon that usually occurs over several days to just over a week after a full moon. Depending on location, it happens at different times of year. For example, coral spawning in Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles, normally occurs in September and October. Whereas the same happens at Australia’s Great Barrier Reef in Spring.

MARTIAN DUST STORM SEASONS. For the Martian northern hemisphere Mars seasonal dust storms originate in two seasons, at solar longitude (Ls) 180 to 240° and Ls 305 to 350°. In the southern hemisphere seasonal dust storms usually originate between Ls 135 to 245°. So there is an overlap between Ls 180 to 240°. Length of days in hours at each Ls just mentioned is given in Table 2 below:

TABLE 2 - LENGTH OF SOLS ON MARS AT KEY SOLAR LONGITUDES RELATED TO DUST STORMS

Ls

Hemisphere where dust storms start

Northern hemisphere season

Southern hemisphere season

Day length hours at 45° North

Southern hemisphere season

Day length hours  at 45° South

Day length at equator

135

southern

Mid summer

Mid winter

14.89

Mid winter

9.85

12.35

180

both

Start fall

Start spring

12.36

Start spring

12.36

12.35

240

both

fall

spring

9.17

spring

15.57

12.35

245

southern

Late fall

Late spring

8.98

Late spring

15.76

12.35

305

northern

Winter

summer

9.36

summer

15.36

12.35

350

northernnortnorther

Later winter

Late summer

11.78

Late summer

12.95

12.35

       A study published in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on 7 January 2016 confirmed that it is the moon that drives the vertical migrations of tiny marine animals like zooplankton through the dark, frigid Arctic winter. A mass of zooplankton from the surface waters sink to 50m every 29.5 days during winter, which coincides with the full moon, which is likely an attempt to avert predator hunting by moonlight.