Eight-year climatology of dust optical depth on Mars

Montabone, L.; Forget, F.; Millour, E.; Wilson, R. J.; Lewis, S. R.; Cantor, B.; Kass, D.; Kleinböhl, A.; Lemmon, M. T.; Smith, M. D. and Wolff, M. J. (2015). Eight-year climatology of dust optical depth on Mars. Icarus, 251 pp. 65–95.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.icarus.2014.12.034


We have produced a multiannual climatology of airborne dust from martian year 24–31 using multiple datasets of retrieved or estimated column optical depths. The datasets are based on observations of the martian atmosphere from April 1999 to July 2013 made by different orbiting instruments: the Thermal Emission Spectrometer (TES) aboard Mars Global Surveyor, the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) aboard Mars Odyssey, and the Mars Climate Sounder (MCS) aboard Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). The procedure we have adopted consists of gridding the available retrievals of column dust optical depth (CDOD) from TES and THEMIS nadir observations, as well as the estimates of this quantity from MCS limb observations. Our gridding method calculates averages and uncertainties on a regularly spaced spatio-temporal grid, using an iterative procedure that is weighted in space, time, and retrieval quality. The lack of observations at certain times and locations introduces missing grid points in the maps, which therefore may result in irregularly gridded (i.e. incomplete) fields. In order to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the resulting gridded maps, we compare with independent observations of CDOD by PanCam cameras and Mini-TES spectrometers aboard the Mars Exploration Rovers ‘‘Spirit’’ and ‘‘Opportunity’’, by the Surface Stereo Imager aboard the Phoenix lander, and by the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars aboard MRO. We have statistically analyzed the irregularly gridded maps to provide an overview of the dust climatology on Mars over eight years, specifically in relation to its interseasonal and interannual variability, in addition to provide a basis for instrument intercomparison. Finally, we have produced regularly gridded maps of CDOD by spatially interpolating the irregularly gridded maps using a kriging method. These complete maps are used as dust scenarios in the Mars Climate Database (MCD) version 5, and are useful in many modeling applications. The two datasets for the eight available martian years are publicly available and distributed with open access on the MCD website.

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