Multitemporal observations of identical active dust devils on Mars with the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) and Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC)
Active dust devils were observed in Syria Planum in Mars Observer Camera - Wide Angle (MOC-WA) and High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) imagery acquired on the same day with a time delay of ∼26 min. The unique operating technique of the HRSC allowed the measurement of the traverse velocities and directions of motion. Large dust devils observed in the HRSC image could be retraced to their counterparts in the earlier acquired MOC-WA image. Minimum lifetimes of three large (avg. ∼700 m in diameter) dust devils are ∼26 min, as inferred from retracing. For one of these large dust devil (∼820 m in diameter) it was possible to calculate a minimum lifetime of ∼74 min based on the measured horizontal speed and the length of its associated dust devil track. The comparison of our minimum lifetimes with previous published results of minimum and average lifetimes of small (∼19 m in diameter, avg. min. lifetime of ∼2.83 min) and medium (∼185 m in diameter, avg. min. lifetime of ∼13 min) dust devils imply that larger dust devils on Mars are active for much longer periods of time than smaller ones, as it is the case for terrestrial dust devils. Knowledge of martian dust devil lifetimes is an important parameter for the calculation of dust lifting rates. Estimates of the contribution of large dust devils (>300-1000 m in diameter) indicate that they may contribute, at least regionally, to ∼50% of dust entrainment by dust devils into the atmosphere compared to the dust devils <300 m in diameter given that the size-frequency distribution follows a power-law. Although large dust devils occur relatively rarely and the sediment fluxes are probably lower compared to smaller dust devils, their contribution to the background dust opacity by dust devils on Mars could be at least regionally large due to their longer lifetimes and ability of dust lifting into high atmospheric layers.