• climate;
  • dust;
  • Mars

[1] The Martian seasonal dust cycle is examined with a general circulation model (GCM) that treats dust as a radiatively and dynamically interactive trace species. Dust injection is parameterized as being due to convective processes (such as dust devils) and model-resolved wind stresses. Size-dependent dust settling, transport by large-scale winds and subgrid scale diffusion, and radiative heating due to the predicted dust distribution are treated. Multiyear Viking and Mars Global Surveyor air temperature data are used to quantitatively assess the simulations. Varying the three free parameters for the two dust injection schemes (rate parameters for the two schemes and a threshold for wind-stress lifting), we find that the highly repeatable northern spring and summer temperatures can be reproduced by the model if the background dust haze is supplied by either convective lifting or by stress lifting with a very low threshold and a low injection rate. Dust injection due to high-threshold, high-rate stress lifting must be added to these to generate spontaneous and variable dust storms. In order to supply the background haze, widespread and ongoing lifting is required by the model. Imaging data provide a viable candidate mechanism for convective lifting, in the form of dust devils. However, observed nonconvective lifting systems (local storms, etc.) appear insufficiently frequent and widespread to satisfy the role. On the basis of the model results and thermal and imaging data, we suggest that the background dust haze on Mars is maintained by convective processes, specifically, dust devils. Combining the convective scheme and high-threshold stress lifting, we obtain a “best fit” multiyear simulation, which produces a realistic thermal state in northern spring and summer and, for the first time, spontaneous and interannually variable global dust storms.