Mars: Dust devil track survey in Argyre Planitia and Hellas Basin

Balme, Matthew; Whelley, Patrick and Greeley, Ronald (2003). Mars: Dust devil track survey in Argyre Planitia and Hellas Basin. Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, 108(E8)



Dust devils and dust devil tracks have been frequently observed in Viking Orbiter and
Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) images, but the parameters that control their distribution
have been poorly constrained. Here we investigate the abundance of dust devil tracks in
two large study areas, Argyre Planitia and Hellas Basin, using a survey of over 3000 MOC
narrow-angle (NA) images. We report the effect of season, elevation, and surface
properties on track distribution using measurements of dust devil track density (the
number of dust devil tracks per square kilometer). In both areas, dust devil tracks occur
predominantly in summer and are rarely observed in winter. The lifetime of dust devil
tracks is inferred to be short (i.e., less than a few months). There is no unambiguous
correlation of abundance with elevation; rather the spatial distribution follows albedo
patterns, suggesting that dust availability controls the abundance of dust devil tracks. We
estimate the total dust lifting potential of dust devils using the average dust devil track
density for Argyre and Hellas and conclude that, unless the average dust devil track is
greater than 20 m wide, longer than 2 km, and more than 40 mm deep, they cannot account
for the estimated global sedimentation rate. In addition, by comparing 2 Mars years of
observations, we find no evidence of an increase in dust devil track density prior to the
global dust storm that occurred in June 2001. We conclude that dust devils did not trigger
this storm.

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