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T.I. Michaels, S.C.R. Rafkin (San Jose State University), R. Haberle (NASA Ames Research Center)
Dust devils have been repeatedly observed on Mars by the Viking Orbiters and Landers, the Mars Pathfinder, and the Mars Global Surveyor. Dust devils are low-pressure, warm-core vortices that occur underneath convective plumes and lift dust from the surface. On Earth, they are frequently observed in hot, arid regions and move with the ambient wind. On Mars, these vortices may play an important role in the maintenance of the atmospheric dust load. In order to further quantify the significance of such dust lifting, as well as to gain a detailed understanding of the life cycles of these phenomena, a large eddy simulation (LES) was performed using the Mars Regional Atmospheric Modeling System (MRAMS). In the LES, dust devil-like circulations were observed throughout the afternoon hours. The entire life cycle of one of the vortices was captured in detail using an additional nested grid. Simulated pressure perturbations and the dimensions of these circulations are in general agreement with spacecraft/lander observations.
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