Mars Dust Activity Database

MDAD has been updated to v1.1 to include the outlines of dust storms for MY 28–32. (12/2022). See the associated paper for more.

I manually outlined 14,974 individual dust storm instances over 8 Mars years of Mars Daily Global Maps and organized these instances into 228 sequences. The data are posted online on the Harvard Dataverse. The dataset lists latitude, longitude, time, and storm area for each instance.

An example of a dust storm “sequence” is shown below. Each panel is a single sol on Mars. The enclosed areas are individual dust storm instances. The sequence (an organized collection of storms) is in blue; other dust instances are in gold.

MDAD sequence from Mars Year 31 (Battalio and Wang, 2021).

MDAD allows for the examination of interesting questions. Here is the average duration that a given point remains dusty after a storm starts (top) and how long do someone on the surface would have to wait (on average) between dust storms (bottom). The midlatitudes are quite dusty, near to the equator, the interval between storms jumps by a considerable amount. MSL in Gale Crater (5°S, 137°E) has a >60 sol interval between storms. Perseverance in Jezero Crater (18°N, 77°E) should have a more interesting time, only ~40 sols between dust storms.

Dust storm duration and recurrence interval (Battalio and Wang, 2021).

To give an idea of how big the dataset is, the figure below shows the spatial distribution of dust storm instances in a sequence (an organized collection of storms, top panel) versus unorganized activity (bottom panel). Most activity is confined between 30°–60°N/S in the winter storm tracks, but some storms flush across hemispheres.

Spatial distribution of organized storms (sequences) and non-organized (non-sequence) storms (Battalio and Wang, 2021).

The temporal distribution of sequences shown below is variable in size and exact timing each year, but unorganized activity (black) regularly follows the edge of the polar ice cap each year. We further categorize “Major” (gold above) and “Minor” (blue) sequences. Major sequences are larger than 10^7 km^2, flush from their origination region, and raise the zonal-mean opacity >0.3. They have unique precursor conditions so that they seem to be instigated by previous dust activity. The growth curves and histories of the major dust events are distinctively different from non-major sequences, so may have predictive capabilities.

Temporal distribution of “Major” (gold), “Minor (blue), and non-sequence (black) storms from three Mars Years from MDAD. Green shading indicates the zonal-mean opacity from Montabone et al., (2015). (Adapted from Battalio and Wang, 2021).

The development of dust activity follows the progression of synoptic storms systems. The curved morphology of dust storms aligns with cold fronts, with cold, high pressure following afterwards (below).

Synoptic setup for on sol in MY 31 with cold (blue contours and fronts) and warm (red contours and fronts) from two reanalysis datasets. Solid white contours are high pressure (blue H’s), and dashed white contours are low pressure (red L’s).

Development of the MDAD is ongoing for Mars Years 33 and 34 (2015–2018), and machine learning techniques will be applied to help with storm identification and for comparison to Perseverance and Curiosity observations.

Frequency of dust storms from the entire MDAD. NASA landed missions are indicated. Perseverance has the best chance of seeing large-scale dust storms since Viking.