Mars Seasons - Springtime in the South is Dust Storm Season

Mars Seasons  Are Just Like Earth's - But Twice as Long

Like every planet, Mars has four seasons --  but they last about twice as long as those on earth. hat's because it takes about two earth-years for Mars to orbit the sun

July 4, 2016 just happens to be the day the seasons change.

That's when the Red planet marked the spring/autumn solstice -- the first day of spring in the southern hemisphere on Mars, and the first day of fall for the northern

Mars seasons

Credit: NASA

Unlike Earth, which has a near circular orbit, the orbit of Mars is more elliptical. That means Mars is closest to the Sun toward the end of the southern spring and farthest from the sun during the southern winter.

Being closer to the Sun means the weather on Mars tends to become more volatile. The planet is at its warmest, and the winds tend to be more powerful.

And that also means, -- at least where Mars rovers Curiosity and Opportunity are exploring  -- it's the beginning of dust storm season.

​Dust Storm Season

Small dust storms can occur in any season. They can start just about anywhere on the planet.

But as the planet approaches perihelion (it's closest orbital approach to the Sun), some of these storms can grow into larger, more regional events.

RELATED: Martian Dust Devil

Occasionally some dust storms become planet-wide.

These global dust storms can blanket the entire planet, warming the atmosphere and obscuring all but the tops of the tallest volcanoes, as you can see from these pictures taken from the Hubble space telescope back in 2001.

global dust storm on Mars

No one is quite sure why only a few localized dust storms grow into planet-wide monsters, but one thing is clear...

Mark Watney (The Martian) might have to get out and clean the solar panels a little more often.

1 comment

  1. Dr. Irwin Horowitz 29 September, 2017 at 11:14 Reply

    I’m wondering why the graphic of the Martian orbit is backwards. It shows the orbit in the clockwise direction, which is how it would appear from below the Martian (and Earth) south pole, rather than from above the north pole. Is this an example of southern hemisphere chauvinism?

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