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Caves & Spiral storms on Arsia Mons; Snow, Water Ice & Carbon Dioxide. (Updated on 3/2/2020)


Cushing and Wynne (2007) proposed that photos from the Mars Odyssey mission reveal football-field size holes (see top of Figure 19) that could be entrances to caves on Arsia Mons.38A  The seven suspect caves ranged from 100 to 251 meters wide and 130 meters deep.  The claim that they are caves is based on an analysis of photographs from the Thermal Emission Imaging System aboard NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter.  The dark spots don’t look like impact craters since they lack raised rims or blast patterns. In 2012 JPL released a photo of a hole on Pavonis Mons, with the floor of a cavern visible about 20 meters below (see right side of Figure 19).

The dust devil issue here is whether drafts rising from inside these caves on Arsia Mons could serve as the cause of the dust devils that are seen even at 17 km there. Temperatures in these features are warmer than the outside air at night and cooler during the day. Dust devils are not the only feature spiraling up from Arsia Mons.  As seen on Figure 20, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory states that:

Just before southern winter begins (NOTE: This is in error, JPL should have indicated just before southern spring begins), sunlight warms the air on the slopes of the volcano. This air rises, bringing small amounts of dust with it. Eventually, the rising air converges over the volcano's caldera, the large, circular depression at its summit. The fine sediment blown up from the volcano's slopes coalesces into a spiraling cloud of dust that is thick enough to actually observe from orbit. The spiral dust cloud over Arsia Mons repeats each year, but observations and computer calculations indicate it can only form during a short period of time each year. Similar spiral clouds have not been seen over the other large Tharsis volcanoes, but other types of clouds have been seen... The spiral dust cloud over Arsia Mons can tower 15 to 30 kilometers (9 to 19 miles) above the volcano.38B However, while I was producing an updated version of this report, I checked my link to Figure 20 and found that JPL had added an image of a similar storm on Olympus Mons at an altitude of over 21 km above areoid.

Arsia Mons is at 9° South. With respect to the season, southern spring begins at Ls 180. It extends to Ls 270.  Ls 90 to 179.9 is southern winter. Figure 20 shows these storms between Ls 150.4 and 180. They are therefore between the late winter and the first day of spring, but the storm over Olympus Mons in the northern hemisphere at Ls 152.6 is in late summer. Figure 20 shows structures analogous to the eye walls of small hurricanes associated with the spiral clouds. They are about 10 km across and appear quite vigorous on Arsia Mons and about 7 km across at Olympus Mons. These pictures were taken just before when planetary pressures should be near minimums. At such high altitude, there shouldn’t be enough pressure differentials to drive such storms if NASA is right, but they are plainly wrong.

Figure 19 below – Left: Seven black spots like the one above on Arsia Mons may be caves or just pits. Images were taken from the Thermal Emission Imaging System aboard NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter reproduced from

Right: Opening to Pavonis Mons discovered in 2012. The floor of the cavern is ~20 meters deep. Source:

Figure 20: Spiral clouds over Arsia Mons adapted from and



            Phoenix captured snow on Mars. This was not unexpected. Richardson et al. (2002)39 discussed snow on Mars before it was seen by Phoenix, but they declared that in order to get a good fit to all other data, cloud ice particle sizes must be used that are about an order of magnitude too large (that is, 20 µm rather than the 2 µm observed).  

           They state that “significant work remains to be done assessing the quality of GCM predictions of Martian circulation vigor and resultant tracer transport.” They concede the need to bump up ice particle size to levels that are “unrealistically large.” While they were not specific about why the ice particles need to be so much bigger than those seen, it would make sense that if pressure were as low as advertised by NASA, the 2 µm ice particles would sublimate back into the atmosphere before the snow could fall, but that at 20 µm it could survive to hit the surface at such low pressures. If so, it follows that 2 µm ice particles survive because in fact the pressure is much higher than NASA has been telling us. Wherever we look at the weather plainly seen on Mars; it fails to match pressures under 10 mbar.

       On August 21, 2017 a new study (with lead author Aymeric Spiga, of the University of Pierre and Marie Curie in Paris - see ) noted that previous research suggested that if snow did fall from Martian clouds, it would waft down very slowly.118 "We thought that snow on Mars fell very gently, taking hours or days to fall 1 or 2 kilometers [0.6 to 1.2 miles]." Now, Spiga found that, "Snow could take something like just 5 or 10 minutes to fall 1 to 2 km [0.6 to 1.2 miles]." The researchers were analyzing data from Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter when they noticed a strong mixing of heat in the Martian atmosphere at night "about 5 km from the surface," Spiga said. "This was never seen before.

       "You expect heat to get mixed in the Martian atmosphere close to the surface during the daytime, since the surface gets heated by the sun," Spiga explained. "But my colleague David Hinson at Stanford University and the SETI Institute saw it higher up in the atmosphere and at night. This was very surprising." The scientists discovered that the cooling of water-ice cloud particles during the cold Martian night could generate unstable turbulence within the clouds.

       "This can lead to strong winds, vertical plumes going upward and downward within and below the clouds at about 10 meters [33 feet] per second," or about 22 mph (36 km/h), Spiga said. "Those are the kinds of winds that are in moderate thunderstorms on Earth." Here again, the more we study Mars, the more it looks like Earth.

This report is continued with Section 4.1 HERE.