An eight-year climatology of the martian northern polar vortex

Streeter, P.M.; Lewis, S.R.; Patel, M.R.; Holmes, J.A. and Rajendran, K. (2024). An eight-year climatology of the martian northern polar vortex. Icarus, 409 p. 115864.



The martian polar atmosphere is characterised by the presence of polar vortices, regions of cold and isolated air over the winter poles common to planetary atmospheres. The polar vortices have important meteorological effects via their interactions with atmospheric tracers and the broader circulation. In turn, they have been shown to be affected by large atmospheric dust loadings such as from dust storms. We make use of an extensive reanalysis dataset of Mars’ weather and climate (Open access to Mars Assimilated Remote Soundings; OpenMARS) to investigate the seasonal and interannual behaviour of Mars’ northern polar vortex over eight recent martian years, Mars Years (MY) 28–35 (2006–2021). We find that the northern polar vortex shows a high degree of interannual repeatability in its structure and evolution, with the key exception of during the presence of large (regional and global scale) dust storms. Such storms cause significant perturbations to the northern polar vortex, compressing it towards the pole and reducing its radius. However, not all dust storms have equal impacts. We find that the seasonal timing of large dust storms appears to be the key factor determining their impacts on the northern polar vortex. Storms occurring closer to southern summer solstice have greater impacts than those occurring closer to equinox. We propose that this seasonal dependence is due to the structure of the background meridional circulation, which is at its greatest strength and latitudinal extension around southern summer solstice. The enhancement of this existing circulation by dust-induced heating allows greater impacts if the circulation is already stronger and more latitudinally extended, and impacts are likewise lesser if the storm occurs during a period with a weaker and less latitudinally extended circulation.

Viewing alternatives

Download history


Public Attention

Altmetrics from Altmetric

Number of Citations

Citations from Dimensions

Item Actions