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This image shows the rock called "Souffle".
Click on image for full size
Image from: NASA/JPL

Martian Surface Winds

On Mars the surface winds accelerate to higher speeds than those on Earth. The general circulation pattern of winds is also very different from the terrestrial circulation pattern. These winds can be whipped to an extreme during the frequent Martian global dust storms.

Sand grains from the surface are picked up by the winds and accelerated to high speeds. This leads to a gouging and chipping effect which contributes toward sand erosion of the surface by wind. Because of Mars' lower gravity, the winds can more easily lift and carry sand particles. But the lower atmospheric pressure of Mars makes the motion of sand particles different than what would be expected on Earth. This makes the erosion of Martian rock a little different than on Earth.

The first weather measurements made from the surface of Mars were performed by the Mars Pathfinder mission. These measurements provided some real data about the strength of Martian winds. Features, found by the Mars Pathfinder lander provided plenty of evidence for sand erosion by wind.


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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA