MAVEN Infographic: Martian Dust Storms Accelerate Water Loss
Scientists using an instrument aboard NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN, or MAVEN, spacecraft have discovered that water vapor near the surface of the Red Planet is lofted higher into the atmosphere than anyone expected was possible. There, it is easily destroyed by electrically charged gas particles, or ions, and lost to space.
The warm summer temperatures and strong winds associated with dust storms help water vapor reach the uppermost parts of the atmosphere, where it can easily be broken into its constituent oxygen and hydrogen, which then escape to space. Previously, scientists thought that water vapor was trapped close to the Martian surface like it is on Earth.
The researchers measured 20 times more water than usual over two days in June 2018, when a severe global dust storm enveloped Mars. They estimated Mars lost as much water in 45 days during this storm as it typically does throughout an entire Martian year, which lasts two Earth years. Learn more about this discovery.
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NASA's Goddard Space Flight CenterConceptual Image Lab