Presentation #203.04 in the session “Mars: Dust, Dynamics, and Dunes”.
The boundary layer moderates exchanges of aerosols, volatiles, and energy between a world’s surface and atmosphere. These exchanges shape weather, climate, precipitation, and a myriad of other atmospheric processes. In turn, the atmosphere sculpts a world’s surface — volatile deposits and sedimentological features — through the boundary layer. Some of the key dynamical structures within the boundary layer occur on small enough spatial scales and short enough time scales that they go unresolved in typical meteorological or micrometeorological networks. In particular, dust devils — small (few to hundreds of meters), dust-laden convective vortices — worsen air quality and remove top soil in arid regions on Earth, while on Mars, they may be the dominant agent for suspending the perpetual atmospheric haze. The occurrence rates of dust devils depend on ambient conditions, and the dust-lifting capacities, on the dynamical structure of the devils themselves, all of which remain poorly explored. To assess these relationships, we set up a small-scale (~100 meters) network of high time resolution sensors on the Alvord Desert in southeastern Oregon, a site previously studied for dust devil activity. The resulting time-series of pressure and wind vectors shows clear evidence for the propagation of boundary layer structures through the network. In this presentation, we will discuss the results from our field study and their implications and promise for future work.