It seems that there are unexpected factors that can change the natural balance, and so dust devils change climate on Mars, as they are influencing quakes. Seismologists have studied the phenomenon on Earth, in California, but in the recent light of discoveries Mars has become interesting enough to become part of the study.
Dust devils that dwell on Earth can be described as small tornadoes which spin upwards, picking up various light elements from deserts or open plains. On Mars however, we can observe many more dust devils than on Earth. This happens because Mars holds a high record of aeolian processes. Recent studies have come to the conclusion that the dust devils from the Red Planet are actually shaping it, from moving particles of dust to different levels of the atmosphere to digging lanes in the soil called regolith. The darker spots left on the soil can become so numerous that the sunlight reflected on the surface of the planet changes its course. This might lead to an alteration in the atmospheric temperatures and also to a solar warming of the planet. On Earth for instance, this phenomenon is already happening in the Arctic sea as the ice melts.
In order to detect a quake, scientists use seismometers and one such apparatus is planned to be installed on the InSight mission to Mars, which will launch in March next year. Ralph Lorenz from the University of Baltimore Johns Hopkins stated that while on Earth the dust devils are considered harmless and sometimes annoying, on Mars there is a whole different situation. The dusty phenomenon has also been known to clean NASA vehicles which have been on mission there, such as Spirit, Orbiter or Opportunity.
The scientists couldn’t previously separate the identification of shakes caused by quakes from the ones produced by the dust devils. However, they managed to determine the signature of a dust devil quake. Now that they have found a way to identify the pressure drops of the devils, researchers will be able to analyse the data recorded by the seismometer on InSight. If we will be able to understand how dust devils change climate on Mars, we might understand in which ways and at what extent this affects the atmosphere.
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