Convective vortices and dust devils at the Phoenix Mars mission landing site



[1] The Phoenix Mars Lander detected a larger number of short (∼20 s) pressure drops that probably indicate the passage of convective vortices or dust devils. Near-continuous pressure measurements have allowed for monitoring the frequency of these events, and data from other instruments and orbiting spacecraft give information on how these pressure events relate to the seasons and weather phenomena at the Phoenix landing site. Here 502 vortices were identified with a pressure drop larger than 0.3 Pa occurring in the 151 sol mission (Ls 76 to 148). The diurnal distributions show a peak in convective vortices around noon, agreeing with current theory and previous observations. The few events detected at night might have been mechanically forced by turbulent eddies caused by the nearby Heimdal crater. A general increase with major peaks in the convective vortex activity occurs during the mission, around Ls = 111. This correlates with changes in midsol surface heat flux, increasing wind speeds at the landing site, and increases in vortex density. Comparisons with orbiter imaging show that in contrast to the lower latitudes on Mars, the dust devil activity at the Phoenix landing site is influenced more by active weather events passing by the area than by local forcing.