Shop Windows to the Universe

Arches National Park Geology Tour provides an extensive, visually rich description of the geology of Arches, by Deborah Ragland, Ph.D. See our DVD collection.
This image shows the rock called "Souffle".
Click on image for full size
Image from: NASA/JPL

Martian Surface Winds

The surface pressure of Mars is about 1/150th that of the surface pressure of the Earth. This means that there are much fewer molecules in the atmosphere. This means that the atmosphere near the surface of Mars has much less inertia than that near the surface of the the Earth. Putting the atmosphere of the Earth in motion must be like putting molasses in motion compared to putting the atmosphere of Mars in motion. This means that the Martian surface winds can be accelerated to higher speeds than those on Earth, see the classes of terrestrial wind speeds. 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.

Because of Mars' lower gravity, the winds can more easily lift and carry sand particles. Sand particles from the surface driven by winds contribute to sand erosion of the surface. Features found by the Mars Pathfinder lander provided plenty of evidence for sand erosion by wind. But the lower atmospheric pressure of Mars makes it harder for the winds to impart momentum to sand particles lying on the ground. Thus the amount of sand grains lifted from the surface are accelerated to high speeds may be different from what would be expected on the 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 "ground truth" for the strength of Martian winds.


Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!

Learn about Earth and space science, and have fun while doing it! The games section of our online store includes a climate change card game and the Traveling Nitrogen game!

Windows to the Universe Community

News

Opportunities

You might also be interested in:

Martian Weathering by Wind and Sand

Dried debris left after a flood is "wind mobile" and can be lifted into the air by winds. The general process by which this occurs is called "saltation". Saltation is the primary form of abrasion and erosion...more

Weathering processes on Mars

There are two main weathering agents on Mars: wind and acid fog. Although acid fog can be very important, because large amounts of water are not readily accessible from the Martian surface, the action...more

Weather found by Mars Pathfinder

This is the first image showing clouds of Mars taken from the lander. Ground based viewing of Mars has shown that clouds seem to be plentiful only in the middle latitudes This may be because water of Mars...more

Mars' Thin Atmosphere

This is image of a Martian sunset illustrates just how thin the Martian atmosphere is. The terrestrial "blue sky" comes about because molecules of the atmosphere scatter sunlight. In this image, the Martian...more

Martian Surface Winds

The surface pressure of Mars is about 1/150th that of the surface pressure of the Earth. This means that there are much fewer molecules in the atmosphere. This means that the atmosphere near the surface...more

Discovery of Mars

Mars is much like Venus-- it's very bright and therefore easily spotted in the night sky. Because of this, we don't know who exactly discovered Mars. We do know it was named after the Roman god of war,...more

Mars 2003

If approved, the Mars 2003 mission will have two important parts. The first is the Mars Surveyor 2003 Lander, which will be launched sometime between May 27, 2003, and June 17, 2003. The lander will use...more

The Mars '98 Landing Site

This image of a potential landing site for the Mars '98 mission was provided by the Mars Global Surveyor mission. The landing site was suppose to be in the south polar region of Mars. In the image, ground...more

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