Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets

Observations of the initiation and evolution of the 2001 Mars global dust storm



[1] A global dust storm occurred on Mars between June and October 2001. The storm began near Hellas just before southern spring equinox (∼Ls = 177°). Local storms, likely forced by a combination of slope-flow and ice cap thermal contrasts, were observed to propagate along the northwestern rim of Hellas, apparently triggering the global storm. Cap-edge storm activity for much of late southern winter was similar in 2001 to one Mars year earlier; however, a very large storm propagated into the basin just after Ls = 177°. Subsequently, the total area of storm activity in 2001 was roughly double that of the previous year. For about 10 days, dust lifting was limited to the Hellas region. As additional storms propagated into Hellas, activity built and extended northward into Syrtis and eastward into Hesperia. It is not clear whether transport or spreading of lifting were of greatest importance for expansion. At Ls = 185° the storm began to spread rapidly to the east, along a line from the southern pole to the northern tropics. Essentially no storm propagation to the west occurred, yielding strong zonal asymmetry of expansion. As the dust storm reached the western edge of Tharsis, secondary dust lifting centers developed in Daedalia and Solis (southeastern Tharsis). Subsequently, the storm rapidly encompassed the planet (by Ls = 193°). Once fully global, the Syria/Solis/Daedalia lifting center appeared to dominate (on the basis of cloud top morphology), with Hellas quiescent. By Ls = 212°, lifting could no longer be discerned. Thereafter, dust haze appeared uniform and diffuse, and decay appeared to have set in.