Forecasting the weather for Mars is a very daunting task for any space meteorologist. The planet’s conditions may not work the same way as Earth, which makes it a lot harder to predict what is going to happen. Luckily for scientists in charge of the Curiosity rover landing last night, Mars’ atmosphere is pretty similar to ours.
Like Earth, Mars also has cold and warm fronts that move around the surface of the planet in the direction of the planet’s rotation. Clouds form at the equator higher from ice crystals that are in the atmosphere of the planet. Temperatures are a little bit warmer at the equator, though overall are much colder than Earth. They can get as high as 60°F at the equator and as low as -200°F at the poles during winter. Even Mars has dust devils and dust storms like Earth! The only difference is that these dust storms have the capability to expand to cover the entire hemisphere of the planet. Wind speeds can be sustained at 50 mph at times at the surface, though gust higher than 125 mph during a dust storm. One thing Earth has and Mars doesn’t is rain. With Curiosity, scientists will be able to bring back soil samples and test for water.
How do space meteorologists predict what is going to happen on Mars? Just like Earth meteorologists use computer models. Satellites and telescopes that surround Mars give space meteorologists some data that aids in forecasting the weather. Granted, it isn’t as accurate or predictable as Earth weather, but it gets pretty close. When Curiosity landed yesterday evening, the weather was exactly as it was predicted to be: cold, dry, and slightly dusty.