The cameras onboard ESA’s Mars Express has revealed the occurrence of dust storms around the Red Planet’s North Polar Region over the previous month. Dust storms brewing in and around the region and restricted to a small area are a normal occurrence on Mars and it is only rarely that a severe storm encompasses the entire area as witnessed the previous year in the form of a global storm that stayed put around the planet for months.
Around eight varied storms of short duration were noted by the spacecraft during the period beginning 22nd May to 10th June at the ice cap’s edge. Clear images of the storms captured on the Visual Monitoring Camera (VMC) and High Resolution Stereo Camera give in depth details as to the color and shape of the occurrence. A seventy minute animated sequence of another storm that began on 28th May and lasted up to 1st June was offered by the VMC on 29th May. The storm moved in the direction of the equator around that time. Several images of other storms were also provided.
A peculiar observation was made by the Mars Express along with the MARCI camera onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter of NASA. The observation involved the presence of mildly colored flimsy cloud patches at the external precincts of the polar cap and near the Olympus Mons and the Elysium Mons volcanoes. On reaching the volcanoes, the dust storms heated the air mass leading to the evaporation of the orographic clouds that had begun to form earlier because of the effect of the volcano’s sheltered slope on the air flow.
The duration of these regional storms is few days after which the rising dust is carried away and dispersed into thin vapor by global circulation in the lower atmosphere at an altitude of around 20-40 km. A little of the dust traces and clouds lingered in the volcanic region till mid-June.
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