Dust storms on Mars, storms on a global scale

The storms and tornados on the Earth are nothing, even if they seem very big to us, compared with Mars’ storms. The dust storms on Mars can arrive to cover regularly the atmosphere of the red planet, making indistinguishable Mars’ reliefs for the spacecrafts that orbit the planet. There are also tornados, that, as the storms, are much more bigger than the Earth’s.

Huge storms

Dust storms on Mars are very frequent. Every few weeks or months, a new dust storm appears. Some of them can elevate so much dust that an astronaut wouldn’t see anything in a 50 meters distance. Normally, they are storms called “regional”. These storms are only in a part of the planet, although the surface affected is still very big. Then, after some hours, weeks or months, they fade, without leaving a remainder of its existence. However, sometimes, these storms grow until they arrive to be storms of planetary scale, that is to say, that they can cover the hole planet.

Thanks to these planetary scale storms, in Mars have been registered one of the biggest storms in the solar system, as the biggest of them take place in Jupiter. These huge dust storms that take place on Mars, have only been observed 10 times since 1877, and we don’t know if there will be another of these cases and neither when.

Their formation

All the storms, without mattering their size, form thanks to the Sun’s heat. Due to its warmth, the Martian atmosphere heats up and provokes a movement of the air, raising the dust from the surface.

As Mars’ atmosphere isn’t much dense, barely the 1% of the density at the sea’s level on the Earth, only the smallest dust particles suspend on the air. The suspension dust in Mars is as thin as the cigarette smoke. This means that, as the dust is so fine, even if the dust storm has huge dimensions, it wouldn’t cause any damage and the astronauts would be able to walk as if there wasn’t any storm.

These fine dust particles reflect from the 20 to 25% of the solar light: for this reason the clouds of the Martian storms seem to be shining. In comparison, the typical reflectivity of Mars’ surface if of the 10 to 15%.

Some very large tornados

Apart from the dust storms on Mars, there are also tornados. In summer, in the most hot hours of the day, veritable tornados form on the Martian plains. The American scientists have called them the “dust devils”. In fact, they are mini-tornados. Even so, some of them can arrive to be of some kilometres height.

Although the tornados and storms are very big, as I said, they wouldn’t cause any damage if there were people installed on Mars. They would only reduce the astronauts’ vision or they would maybe walk with a little more difficulties, but, apart from this they wouldn’t cause any troubles.

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