The Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) instrument on-board the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) has acquired unprecedented measurements of key environmental variables at the base of Gale Crater. The pressure measured by REMS shows modulations with a very structured pattern of short-time scale (of the order of seconds to several minutes) mild fluctuations (typically up to 0.2 Pa at daytime and 1 Pa at night-time). These dynamic pressure oscillations are consistent with wind, air and ground temperature modulations measured simultaneously by REMS. We detect the signals of a repetitive pattern of upslope/downslope winds, with maximal speeds of about 21 m/s, associated with thermal changes in the air and surface temperatures, that are initiated after sunset and finish with sunrise proving that Gale, a 4.5 km deep impact crater, is an active Aeolian environment. At nighttime topographic slope winds are intense with maximal activity from 17:00 through 23:00 Local Mean Solar Time, and simultaneous changes of surface temperature are detected. During the day, the wind modulations are related to convection of the planetary boundary layer, winds are softer with maximum wind speed of about 14 m/s. The ground temperature is modulated by the forced convection of winds, with amplitudes between 0.2 K and 0.5 K, and the air temperatures fluctuate with amplitudes of about 2 K. The analysis of more than one and a half Martian years indicates the year-to-year repeatability of these environmental phenomena. The wind pattern minimizes at the beginning of the south hemisphere winter (Ls 90) season and maximizes during late spring and early summer (Ls 270). The procedure that we present here is a useful tool to investigate in a semi-quantitative way the winds by: i) filling both seasonal and diurnal gaps where wind measurements do not exist, ii) providing an alternative way for comparisons through different measuring principia and, iii) filling the gap of observation of short-time wind variability, where the REMS wind sensor is blind.
- Gale Crater
- Planetary boundary layer (PBL)
- Pressure fluctuations