Winds measured by the Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) during the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) rover’s Bagnold Dunes Campaign and comparison with numerical modeling using MarsWRF

Claire E Newman, Javier Gómez-Elvira, Mercedes Marin, Sara Navarro, Josefina Torres, Mark I Richardson, J Michael Battalio, Scott D Guzewich, Robert Sullivan, Manuel de la Torre, Ashwin R Vasavada, Nathan T Bridges. 2017. Winds measured by the Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) during the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) rover’s Bagnold Dunes Campaign and comparison with numerical modeling using MarsWRF. Icarus 291, 203-231, DOI: 10.1016/j.icarus.2016.12.016

A high density of REMS wind measurements were collected in three science investigations during MSL’s Bagnold Dunes Campaign, which took place over similar to 80 sols around southern winter solstice (Ls similar to 90 degrees) and constituted the first in situ analysis of the environmental conditions, morphology, structure, and composition of an active dune field on Mars. The Wind Characterization Investigation was designed to fully characterize the near-surface wind field just outside the dunes and confirmed the primarily upslope/downslope flow expected from theory and modeling of the circulation on the slopes of Aeolis Mons in this season. The basic pattern of winds is ‘upslope’ (from the northwest, heading up Aeolis Mons) during the daytime (similar to 09:00-17:00 or 18:00) and ‘downslope’ (from the southeast, heading down Aeolis Mons) at night (similar to 20:00 to some time before 08:00). Between these times the wind rotates largely clockwise, giving generally westerly winds mid-morning and easterly winds in the early evening. The timings of these direction changes are relatively consistent from sol to sol; however, the wind direction and speed at any given time shows considerable intersol variability. This pattern and timing is similar to predictions from the MarsWRF numerical model, run at a resolution of similar to 490 m in this region, although the model predicts the upslope winds to have a stronger component from the E than the W, misses a wind speed peak at similar to 09:00, and under-predicts the strength of daytime wind speeds by similar to 2-4 m/s. The Namib Dune Lee Investigation reveals ‘blocking’ of northerly winds by the dune, leaving primarily a westerly component to the daytime winds, and also shows a broadening of the 1 Hz wind speed distribution likely associated with lee turbulence. The Namib Dune Side Investigation measured primarily daytime winds at the side of the same dune, in support of aeolian change detection experiments designed to put limits on the saltation threshold, and also appears to show the influence of the dune body on the local flow, though less clearly than in the lee. Using a vertical grid with lower resolution near the surface reduces the relative strength of nighttime winds predicted by MarsWRF and produces a peak in wind speed at similar to 09:00, improving the match to the observed diurnal variation of wind speed, albeit with an offset in magnitude. The annual wind field predicted using this grid also provides a far better match to observations of aeolian dune morphology and motion in the Bagnold Dunes. However, the lower overall wind speeds than observed and disagreement with the observed wind direction at similar to 09:00 suggest that the problem has not been solved and that alternative boundary layer mixing schemes should be explored which may result in more mixing of momentum down to the near-surface from higher layers. These results demonstrate a strong need for in situ wind data to constrain the setup and assumptions used in numerical models, so that they may be used with more confidence to predict the circulation at other times and locations on Mars.(C) 2016 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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