Wind is the primary geologic process currently active on the surface of Mars. Albedo variations at eight dune fields were tested based on the hypothesis that a dune's ripple migration rate is correlated to its albedo. On Mars, where the atmospheric pressure is low, dust is removed from the surface of a dune by saltating sand. Therefore, more active dunes should remove dust more efficiently than less active dunes. A dune's albedo was found to be low in the first half of the Mars year (Ls = 0–180°) and high in the second half (Ls = 180–360°) during the dusty season. Both dunes with fast- and slow-moving ripples exhibit low albedos, whereas dunes with ripples that migrate at intermediate speeds exhibit high albedos. A dune's minimum albedo does not have a simple correlation with its ripple migration rate. Instead, we propose that dust devils remove dust on slow-moving and immobile dunes, whereas saltating sand caused by strong winds removes dust on faster dunes. Albedo should not be used as a proxy for migration rate of ripples or dune activity, as it may be difficult to distinguish between fast- and slow-moving ripples on dunes that have the same albedo. The presence of dust devil tracks on a dune could indicate the dune and/or its ripples are either immobile or migrating slowly. We also propose that albedo variations on individual dune fields can reveal insight into the local wind regime.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Earth-Surface Processes