Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets

Modeling the Martian dust cycle and surface dust reservoirs with the NASA Ames general circulation model



[1] We employ the NASA Ames Mars general circulation model (GCM) to investigate the dust lifting mechanisms responsible for the observed Martian dust cycle and the net surface response to the combined influence of dust lifting and deposition. This GCM includes lifting, transport, and deposition of radiatively active dust. Two dust lifting mechanisms are accounted for: wind stress lifting and dust devil lifting. A “baseline” simulation is presented and shown to compare well to available spatial and temporal observations of atmospheric opacity, wind stress dust lifting events, and atmospheric temperatures recorded during a nonglobal dust storm year. Multiple simulations were conducted to explore the model's sensitivity to a wide range of dust lifting parameters (the functional dependence of surface dust flux on wind stress, the wind stress threshold for lifting, etc.) Model results robustly suggest that wind stress lifting produces the peak in atmospheric dust load during southern spring and summer and that dust devils maintain the background haze of atmospheric dust during northern spring and summer. These results are consistent with previously published conclusions. Dust devil and wind stress lifting contribute equally to the simulated total amount of dust lifted annually during nonglobal dust storm years. The simulated spatial pattern of annual net deflation/deposition suggests that the low thermal inertia regions (Tharsis, Arabia, and Elysium) are not currently net dust accumulation regions. This net deflation is the result of dust devil dust lifting, suggesting that dust devils could play an important role in the present-day pattern of surface dust reservoirs.