Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets

Aeolian processes in Proctor Crater on Mars: Mesoscale modeling of dune-forming winds



[1] Both atmospheric modeling and spacecraft imagery of Mars are now of sufficient quality that the two can be used in conjunction to acquire an understanding of regional- and local-scale aeolian processes on Mars. We apply a mesoscale atmospheric model adapted for use on Mars (the Mars MM5) to Proctor Crater, a 150 km diameter crater in the southern highlands. Proctor Crater contains numerous aeolian features that indicate wind direction, including a large dark dune field with reversing transverse and star dunes containing three different slipface orientations, small and older bright bedforms that are most likely transverse granule ripples, and seasonally erased dust devil tracks. Results from model runs spanning a Martian year, with a horizontal grid spacing of 10 km, predict winds aligned with two of the three dune slipfaces as well as spring and summer winds matching the dust devil track orientations. The primary (most prevalent) dune slipface orientation corresponds to a fall and winter westerly wind created by geostrophic forces. The tertiary dune slipface orientation is caused by spring and summer evening katabatic flows down the eastern rim of the crater, influencing only the eastern portion of the crater floor. The dunes are trapped in the crater because the tertiary winds, enhanced by topography, counter transport from the oppositely oriented primary winds, which may have originally carried sand into the crater. The dust devil tracks are caused by light spring and summer westerly winds during the early afternoon caused by planetary rotation. The secondary dune slipface orientation is not predicted by model results from either the Mars MM5 or the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory Mars general circulation model. The reason for this is not clear, and the wind circulation pattern that creates this dune slipface is not well constrained. The Mars MM5 model runs do not predict stresses above the saltation threshold for dune sand of the appropriate size and composition. As with previous work, the calculated wind velocities are too low, which may be caused by too large of a grid spacing.