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 The picture above is a section of a larger image released by the THEMIS (Thermal Emission Imaging System)
team of the Mars Odyssey Mission. It depicts energetic streamers rising from the margin of the south polar
ice cap.

May 09
, 2007
Martian Dust Devils—Prediction Confirmed

It can now be stated with confidence that massive dust storms on Mars are fed by great congregations of “dust devils”—confirming our claim registered some 18 months ago.

In our Picture of the Day for November 9, 2005, “When Dust Storms Engulf Mars,” we asserted a claim flatly contradicting the theoretical assumptions of conventional astronomers, meteorologists, and planetary scientists. Taking a pointer from Wallace Thornhill, we asserted that the global dust storm that engulfed the planet Mars in August and September of 2001, involved a packed assembly of “dust devils” carrying great volumes of Martian dust into billowing clouds.

Since publication of that TPOD, a review of dust storm images from the Mars Global Surveyor and from THEMIS, together with a systematic study of related phenomena on Mars, has confirmed that our statement was accurate. And yet it is also clear that the concept of compact “dust-devil congregations” could only appear absurd to conventional schools. In standard theory an atmospheric vortex requires a vastly larger circulation of wind, a condition that precludes what seems clearly to be seen in edge-on pictures of “storm fronts” on Mars.

The image above, released December 30, 2003, shows apparent vortices (a word that would not be used by NASA scientists) rising into billowing clouds from the margins of the south polar ice cap in the Martian summer. The caption accompanying the release, reads: “Like billowing smoke from a brush fire, clouds of dust are seen streaming off the edge of the Martian south polar cap. The southern hemisphere is in the middle of its summer season and experiencing a multitude of small dust storms like this one. The net effect is an increasingly dusty atmosphere across the whole planet and with it, warmer atmospheric temperatures.

Here again, as noted in our May 7 TPOD, planetary scientists imply that it is the raised clouds themselves that produce the warmer temperatures. For this claim there is simply no evidence. But the dramatic rise of temperature simultaneously with large regional, or global storms, cannot be disputed. It is the cause that remains a mystery to NASA scientists.

Another stunning image of a south polar storm front was taken by the Global Surveyor—

The site of the image is located near 87.0°S, 170.6°W. The area shown is
about 3 km (1.9 mi) wide.

In this instance the caption is more explicit than in the THEMIS release, though there is no mention of vortices here either. “This Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) image shows an example of a south polar dust-raising event caught by the narrow angle camera. The small, somewhat circular features at the lower right of the frame are pits in the Martian surface. Moving from the bottom to top of the image, first there is a view of the pitted surface, followed by a zone of long, thin streamers of dust being lifted from the surface, followed by--at the top one third of the image--the billowy clouds of the dust storm. This image is important because it shows long, thin streamers of dust actually being raised from the Martian surface to feed the dust storm.

We have left the mention of the “pitted surface” in this quote because it bears directly on our forthcoming analysis of the relationship between compact dust devil activity, dust storms and an array of other Martian mysteries.

But it must be understood that this relationship of dust devils to massive dust storms on Mars is not restricted to the southern polar region. A spectacular edge of another storm—44.9N, 8.7E—can be seen here.

For now, however, we are particularly interested in events in the vicinity of Mars’ south pole, a region presenting many of the most enigmatic features seen on any planet or moon. Indeed, “inexplicable” activity is occurring at this very moment.

As we intend to show, a simple and coherent explanation is possible.

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