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An Extremely Elongated Cloud Over Arsia Mons Volcano on Mars: I. Life Cycle

J. Hernández-Bernal, A. Sánchez-Lavega, T. del Río-Gaztelurrutia, E. Ravanis, A. Cardesín-Moinelo, A. Cardesín-Moinelo, K. Connour, D. Tirsch, I. Ordóñez-Etxeberria, B. Gondet, S. Wood, D. Titov, N. Schneider, R. Hueso, R. Jaumann, E. Hauber

We report a previously unnoticed annually repeating phenomenon consisting of the daily formation of an extremely elongated cloud extending as far as 1,800 km westward from Arsia Mons. It takes place in the solar longitude (Ls) range of ∼220°–320°, around the Southern solstice. We study this Arsia Mons Elongated Cloud (AMEC) using images from different orbiters, including ESA Mars Express, NASA MAVEN, Viking 2, MRO, and ISRO Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM). We study the AMEC in detail in Martian year (MY) 34 in terms of local time and Ls and find that it exhibits a very rapid daily cycle: the cloud growth starts before sunrise on the western slope of the volcano, followed by a westward expansion that lasts 2.5 h with a velocity of around 170 m/s in the mesosphere (∼45 km over the areoid). The cloud formation then ceases, detaches from its formation point, and continues moving westward until it evaporates before the afternoon, when most sun-synchronous orbiters make observations. Moreover, we comparatively study observations from different years (i.e., MYs 29–34) in search of interannual variations and find that in MY33 the cloud exhibits lower activity, while in MY34 the beginning of its formation was delayed compared with other years, most likely due to the Global Dust Storm. This phenomenon takes place in a season known for the general lack of clouds on Mars. In this paper we focus on observations, and a theoretical interpretation will be the subject of a separate paper.

annually repeating; Arsia Mons; cloud; elongated; Mars; orographic; Astrophysics - Earth and Planetary Astrophysics

Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets
Volume 123, Number e065
2021 March

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Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa Universidade do Porto Faculdade de Ciências e Tecnologia da Universidade de Coimbra
Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia COMPETE 2020 PORTUGAL 2020 União Europeia