On our own world, dust storms can carry sands from the Sahara around the globe.On Mars, immense dust storms worthy of a Mad Max reference and formations called Transverse Aeolian Ridges up to a meter tall are common sights. Unlike Earth, where we constantly see geoactive forces like water, ice, and volcanic activity changing the landscape around us, the only force we can see actively changing the landscape of Mars is the wind. With desertification increasing on our own planet dune fields in many locations are moving into existing agricultural areas. Might we eventually be living on a world where the impact of wind on the land is as great as it is on Mars? Can the windswept world of Mars tell us what life will be like someday here on Earth?
Michelle Neely, a master’s student in Geology and Geophysics studying under Shan de Silva, is investigating just that. By studying wind shaped formations called symetrical bed forms in the high desert of Argentina, which are the Earth’s closest analog to the ridges formed by the winds of Mars, Michelle hopes to learn how wind processes work on both worlds. If terrestrial desertification leaves our Blue Planet looking a lot more like the Red Planet, this research will prove invaluable.
For more on the geological history of Mars and our own future, tune in to 88.7 FM Sunday November 8th at 7pm PST or stream live to find out!