“What a fantastic demonstration of what our nation and our agency can do. I can only think of the words of Theodore Roosevelt: ‘It’s far better to do mighty things, even though you might fail, than to stay in the twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.’”
~ Dr. Charles Elachi, in comparing NASA’s Curiosity and USA’s Olympic team.
These past weeks have been exciting in the world of weather. Not ours, for it continues to be hot. I am referring to that of London and now Mars. Martian weather … definitely an “out of this world” experience. With much cooler temperatures than those on Earth, try not to be first in line for a ticket into space. The recent 100-plus degree heat has seemed intolerable but a trip to the beach to cool off is both faster and more energy efficient than one into space.
The weather during the Olympic games was very typical of summertime in London, with intermittent rain and comfortable temperatures. The athletes have returned home and our summer weather is right on track. Now, maybe, we can switch our focus to Curiosity and the exploration of Mars.
As Curiosity explores the Martian topography, what kind of weather conditions might it encounter? As you look at the planetary line up, Mars is 50% farther than Earth from the Sun. Therefore, bitter cold is the norm. In the middle latitudes, average daytime temperatures are about -58 degrees Fahrenheit. The atmosphere is paper-thin and at times windy and dusty. There is no rain because of the low temperatures and pressures, and water only exists in the form of ice or vapor. (Surface water was likely in the geologic past.) Storm clouds blow across the sky, composed of evaporated ice crystals from Mars’ polar ice caps. If you are extremely lucky and make your plans to arrive at Mars’ equator at noon on a summer day, it is possible to enjoy 70 degree temperatures. What will the weather be for the upcoming days?
Pasadena, CA – Manuel de la Torre is a Martian weatherman (he is an earthling) at JPL. The following is his forecast:
“We are expecting a clear day here on Mars with thin ice clouds on the horizon and balmy, minus 20-degree temperatures. But overnight, it might get chilly – all the way down to -200 Fahrenheit.” Also, “Winds will be calm and skies should be pink.”
There is a team of 40 engineers and scientists assembled at JPL, either working on Curiosity’s weather station or analyzing its data. The Mars’ mission spans over the next 22 months /one Martian year. During that time, the station will continuously record and send weather reports back to Earth.
I haven’t forgotten our hot weather. Wish I could, but with days well over 100 and nights in the 80s, it is a little difficult. Over the next week temperatures are expected to cool down slightly with highs in the upper 90s and lows in the mid-70s.
Visions of Mars and an iced tea may help!
Sue Kilpatrick is a
Crescenta Valley resident and
Official Skywarn Spotter for the
National Weather Service. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.