We all know the joys of snow: its unique and beautiful shapes, its potentially devastating power, and its physical properties that make the ultimate snowball fights possible. However, according to The Verge, we may not be the only planet with snow. It has been reported that Mars may experience snowfall in a similar way to Earth.
To scientists, snow on Mars is not exactly a new concept. NASA’s Phoenix lander touched down on the dusty red planet in 2008, and it was able to detect snow falling from nearby clouds. At the time, scientists believed that the snow was falling rather slowly. Now, thanks to new models, they believe the snow could be falling much faster, taking about five to ten minutes to drop a mile.
It is said that “these snowstorms could have a big impact on how water-ice is distributed in the atmosphere, as well as how dust and other chemicals mix in the air.” What does this mean for the Martian climate models already in place. In short, it most likely means they will have to be updated in order to account for the snowfall.
At first glance, the researchers studying this Martian phenomenon believed that the snow evaporated on the way down to the surface. Earth has a similar phenomenon called virga, where rain evaporates before hitting the ground. They still hold this to be the predominant theory, but it is strong winds, rather than gravity, that pulls the moisture downwards. If the clouds on Mars are low enough, then, combined with these strong winds, snow might actually reach the surface. It is similar to a phenomena called “microbursts” on Earth, where “strong winds carry snow or rain swiftly from a cloud.”
While it has not been confirmed whether all of these model predictions are true, the information currently in hand could be highly valuable to further understanding local planets and the universe surrounding the tiny blue speck we call home.