NASA has been tracking a massive dust storm on Mars since they first spotted it on November 10. While they’re calling the storm “regional,” it has reportedly changed air pressure and temperatures all over the planet.
“For the first time since the Viking missions of the 1970s, we are studying a regional dust storm both from orbit and with a weather station on the surface,” Rich Zurek, chief Mars scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, is quoted as saying in a status report in NASA’s website. “One thing we want to learn is why do some Martian dust storms get to this size and stop growing, while others this size keep growing and go global.”
In an August article, The Guardian suggested that by studying the atmosphere on Mars, scientists could be able to better understand climate change on Earth. Scientists have been limited by having just the one atmosphere to study, making it harder to tell if their hypotheses about what causes climate change are accurate, or if there are anomalies for which they’re not accounting. Having a second atmosphere for comparison will allow for more accurate analysis of what’s going on in Earth’s atmosphere.
“Besides the research value in better understanding storm behavior,” the NASA report continues, “monitoring the storm is also important for Mars rover operations.” The Opportunity rover is solar-powered, so dust in the air and/or on its solar panels could prove problematic for its daily operations.