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Caves & Spiral storms on Arsia Mons; Snow, Water Ice & Carbon Dioxide; Ls of Minimum Pressure. (Updated on 8/28/2017)


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.

Figure 21A 1,177 and 1,200 maximum pressures published exceeded the 1,150 Pa limit of the Vaisala pressure sensor on MSL. Later the REMS Team put out a pressure of 1,154 Pa for Sol 1301, but revised it to 752 Pa after we published a prediction at that they would do so. The high pressures are probably errors but they certainly point to personnel problems within the NASA/JPL/REMS Team organization. Overlooking the pressures shown on Figure 21B, the total variation for Ls of maximum pressure is from Ls 257 (MSL Year 2) to Ls 279.93 (Viking 2). This is a difference of 22.93 solar degrees. See Table 8. Given the small variation in daily pressures from MSL Year 1 and 2 (about 2.5 Pa per sol with a standard deviation of about 2.115 Pa for the first 118 sols of MSL Year 2), the large variation for the sol of maximum pressure is somewhat surprising and may be another hint that the pressure measurements are flawed. There was no variation in maximum pressure between MSL Year 1 and 2. Both were given as 925 Pa.

Figure 21B BELOW The top and bottom curves show pressure fluctuations over 4 Martian years at Viking 1 and 2 sites. An approximation of the MSL data for its first year is in black between them (see Figure 23 for an accurate MSL pressure plot). On the left is a reproduction of the Figure 12A Phoenix data. The Phoenix and MSL data most closely matches Viking 2. Adapted from the Tillman, Viking Computer Facility, from Nelli et al., 2009, and from the REMS Team and Ashima Research. MSL and Phoenix carried similar Vaisala pressure transducers. We suspect that MSL pressures published were fudged approximations founded on the accepted Viking pressure curves shown above rather than legitimate pressure readings. The 11.49 mbar pressure for Sol 370 was removed by JPL after we made an issue about it. As of December 13, 2015 the 11.77 mbar and 12 mbar pressures for Sols 1160 and 1161 (November 10-12, 2015) remained although they both exceed the 11.5 mbar capability of the transducer on MSL, but they were reduced later.


Pressures at Ls 90 and minimum pressures seen by

VL-1,  VL-2 and MSL



Mbar pressure at Ls 90

Mbar Minimum








(7.51 at Ls 97)





N/A (7.72 at Ls 118)





N/A (8.06 at Ls 100)


148.48 and 




(June 13, 2014)


*7.30 on Sol 1 changed to N/A. Then 7.32 on Sol 664

150 changed to N/A. Then Ls 147.


2 (May 7 to 9, 2016)


7.32 on Sols 1334, 1335 and 1336.

Ls 148 to 149


Average Ls of minimum



Table 7: *Originally JPL published a pressure of 7.05 mbar for Sol 1 at Ls 150, and 7.18 mbar for Sol 9 at Ls 155, however they later changed these pressures to N/A. VL- 1 and VL-2 data from   

       Since there is no ocean on Mars to slow the time of maximum cooling it would seem like the coldest time in the southern hemisphere would be at Ls 90, yet we see that minimum pressures can occur over 65 degrees later as Mars moves through its 360 degree orbit of the sun. If the average minimum pressure seen at Ls 149 is correct, that’s just 31 degrees short of spring in the southern hemisphere at Ls 180.

       As is indicated on Table 7, the data available to the public from the Viking Computer Facility (and Professor Tillman) lacks information about Ls 90 for both Vikings. However for Viking 1 there was a 1 mbar decrease in pressure from Ls 97 to Ls 150.156 (7.51 mbar down to 6.51 mbar). For Viking 2 Year 1 pressure decreased 0.43 mbar from Ls 118 to Ls 145 and for Viking 2 Year pressure decreased 0.769 mbar from Ls 100 to Ls 148.48 and 155.393. These Figures are based on essentially hourly temperature readings (25 per sol). For MSL we only have questionably revised daily average pressures, but from Ls 90 to Ls 147 there was a decrease of 1.25 mbar in Year 1 and 1.17 mbar in Year 2.

       What kind of pressure difference should we expect just due to the difference in elevation of Vikings 1, Viking 2 and MSL? Based on calculations shown earlier on Table 1:

 TABLE 8 - Landers and Expected Pressures Based on Landing Altitude


Km below areoid

Elevation below

VL - 1

Expected Average pressure based on 6.1 mbar at areoid with a scale height of 10.8

Expected pressure  increase from VL-1 (mbar)

Minimum pressure stated.


Maximum pressure stated (after MSL revisions removing 11.49, 9.4, and 9.37 mbar) and Ls

Average of high and low pressures

Pressure increase from VL – 1

VL -1



8.535 mbar


6.51 @ Ls 150.156

9.57 @ Ls 277.724



MSL Year 1



9.168 mbar


7.32 @ Ls 147*

9.25 @ Ls 252



MSL Year 2



9.168 mbar


7.34 @ Ls 153

9.25 again @ Ls 257



MSL Year 3




9.168 mbar





9.11 @ Ls 259#





VL – 2



9.257 mbar


7.27 @148.48 and 


10.72 @ Ls 279.93

8.995 the discission


Table 8 - Landers and Expected Pressures Based on Landing Altitude.  *Originally JPL published a pressure of 7.05 mbar for Sol 1 at Ls 150, and 7.18 mbar for Sol 9 at Ls 155. See Table 7 notes.


Using a scale height of 10.8, and an average pressure of 6.1 mbar at areoid, the average annual  pressure at Viking 1 should be about 8.535 mbar, while for Viking 2 we would expect about 9.257 mbar. The difference is 0.722 mbar (see Table 1 earlier in this report).  Viking 2 is estimated to have landed at 48.269° North (there are slight differences published for this figure), whereas (see Table 9), it got much colder (down to -117.34° C/155.81K in Year 2) on the winter solstice (Ls 270°) than what was experienced at Viking 1 (-95.14° C/ 178.01K in year 1), which landed in the tropics at 22.697° North. These temperatures are still too warm for snow to fall as frozen carbon dioxide. The temperatures required for that is supposedly -128° C (145.15K) or colder, which is associated with a latitude of 70º N or higher.42 How long would there be no daylight at all at 70º N or S?
       Annex L shoows how day length varies with Ls and latitude on Mars. For the southern hemisphere at 70º S there is no sunrise from Ls 54.2 until Ls 125.9. For MSL Year 1 this was from November 24, 2013 to May 5, 2014 (157 Martian sols); and for Year 2 it was from October 15, 2015 to March 22, 2016. Further south time in darkness lengthens. Due to the eccentricity of the Martian orbit, the spans of darkness are not the same at both poles. Martian months, each 30º of Ls position apart, vary from 46 sols at perihelion to 66 sols to aphelion. The South Pole is in cold darkness for 371 sols while the North Pole would is dark for 297 sols, a difference of 74 sols.
       After May 5, 2014 (Ls125.9) at 70º S sunlight shines at that latitude and daylight lengthens between there and the Antarctic circle at 64.81º S, and yet MSL data backs Viking 1 and 2 data showing a decrease in worldwide pressure on Mars until at least Ls 145 – all supposedly due to carbon dioxide freezing at the South Pole. Ls 145 was reached by MSL on June 13, 2014 in Year 1 and April 30, 2016 in Year 2.

Figure 22 above: There are many differences in the reports posted by the JPL REMS Team and Ashima Research before they ceased publication. Ashima claimed it took its data directly from MSL REMS.  For Sol 668 REMS lists the pressure at 734 Pa with the Ls 150. Ashima showed 7.30 hPa (730 Pa) but gave the Earth date as June 21, 2014 rather than June 23, 2014.

      On May 5, 2014 pressure at MSL was listed as 7.65 mbar. At Ls 145 pressure was down to 7.35 mbar. In fact, it actually went down after that to 7.30 mbar on Sol 668 at Ls 150. However weather data at the beginning of the MSL mission was later revised a lot. While later altered to N/A, originally the REMS Team published a pressure of 7.05 mbar for Sol 1 at Ls 150, and 7.18 mbar for Sol 9 at Ls 155.

      For Viking 1 (22.697° North) looking at hourly pressures for the days around Ls 125.9 pressures were between 6.84 and 7.05 mbar. By Ls 145 the pressures for the day around then were down to between 6.68 and 6.96 mbar.43 For Viking 1 the minimum pressure (6.51 mbar) actually did not occur until Ls 150.156. That’s over 60 degrees of solar longitude past the winter solstice.

     For Viking 2 the hourly pressures for the sol around Ls 125.9 pressures were between 7.56 and 7.64 mbar, however as is addressed in great detail in Annex C to this Report (see, pressures do not appear to be reliable because they were generally stuck at 7.64. mbar Annex C (pages C-18 to C-19) show that in Viking 2 pressures were also stuck at Ls 125, but the pressure it was stuck at was 7.56 mbar, however due to data digitization (discussed in Section 2.6.1 and Table 4B of this report), pressures between 7.56 and 7.64 were generally) not published (and if they were they were based on interpolation rather than actual transmitted data).

       For Viking 2, (at about 48º North) Ls 145 on Year 1 pressures were down to between 7.29 and 7.47 mbar. The 7.29 mbar pressure was reported for Ls 145.745 and it was the lowest pressure observed for Viking 2 in Year 1. For Viking 2 at Ls 145 pressures were stuck at 7.38 mbar (see page C-40 in Annex C to this report) for part of the Ls, but were often stuck at 7.47 mbar, the same pressure given for Viking 2 Year 1 at this Ls.44 For Viking 2 Year 2 the minimum pressure of 7.27 mbar was observed at Ls 148.48 and again as late as Ls 155.393, over 65 degrees past winter solstice. Read and Lewis note that, “the thermal inertia of the surface… takes some time to change its temperature and tends to lag behind the seasonal movement of the subsolar point,” but this much of a lag, given no ocean (at least on the surface), is enough to suggest that carbon dioxide at the poles is not at the root cause of pressure fluctuations, assuming that pressure readings are not distorted by inadequately designed pressure transducers.    

       At this Ls 155.393 at a latitude of 70º South where it is supposed to get cold enough for carbon dioxide to solidify in the winter there are already more than 8.4 hours of daylight each sol, however at  80º South there is no sunrise until about Ls 155.5 (see Table 10).  The actual permanent polar ice cap is much further south, not centered on the South Pole and only about 350 to 400 km in diameter, although the seasonal (mostly water ice) south polar cap is closely centered on the South Pole and covers the surface up to a latitude of 70º South.45      

       Malen et al. (2001) calculated between 100 and 150 g/cm2 is deposited at 80º South each winter and is removed by sublimation each spring and summer.46At that latitude darkness extends from Ls 24.6 to Ls 155.4 (about 278 sols, from September 21, 2013 to July 3, 2014).       

       As indicated earlier, the driving idea behind Martian air pressure cycles seems to be the work of Leighton and Murray (1966), published ten years before any lander would be on Mars transmitting in situ pressures back to Earth. They postulated that the Martian polar caps, largely carbon dioxide, control the average atmospheric pressure on Mars. If they were right we might understand the almost even double hump curve (see Figure 23) of Martian pressure shown below (for each Martian year) based on how pressures at MSL were reported, but they were wrong about a number of things including their belief that that the permanent deposit of CO2 would be found in the north.40 One pole that is largely carbon dioxide ice and the opposite pole that is water ice should not produce such symmetrical pressure spikes twice each year. Having seen JPL alter data (often after prompting from us), we believe that the pressure curves seen on Figure 23 are due to unwarranted data manipulation and loyalty to Leighton and Murray's 1966 discredited ideas.

Table 9 Comparison of Viking 2 and Viking 2 Pressures for Ls 270. Note: For MSL at Ls 270 the maximum air temperature was -3C, maximum ground temperature was 5C; minimum air temperature was -68C and minimum ground temperature was -72C. Only one pressure was offered: 915 Pa (9.15 mbar).

       Malin et al. supported a large surface reservoir of solid carbon dioxide, but point to high resolution of south polar regions acquired in 1999 and 2001 that point to retreating solid carbon dioxide and global climate change. However, the picture painted by similar pressure curves in Figure 23 above may be challenged by the following synopsis found in the References and Notes section of the Malin et al. paper:

Although there is broad consensus that the southern residual cap is CO2, the general impression from the literature is that the material is thin and may occasionally completely sublime. The only evidence put forth for this variability is the ground-based detection of abundant water vapor during the 1969 southern summer47, an observation that would be at odds with the presence of CO2 ice upon which the atmospheric water vapor would tend to deposit. The Viking orbiters observed only trace amounts of water vapor in 197748, as would be expected in the presence of year-round CO2 ice, and an analysis of Mariner 9 infrared measurements indicated that the southern residual cap in 1971 and 1972 also retained CO2 frost throughout the summer49. These inconsistent observations50 have been taken as evidence of an interannual instability (42) and have been used to argue that Leighton and Murray's prediction of a large surface reservoir is wrong,51 or that as yet unknown feedback processes between the other CO2 reservoirs (atmosphere, polar cap, carbonate rocks, and gas adsorbed onto fine-grained regolith materials) maintain the near-zero mass of the surface frost.49

       The Malin et al. article was published in 2001. Since then on September 26, 2013 NASA announced an MSL finding that,

       “A key finding is that water molecules are bound to fine-grained soil particles, accounting for about 2 percent of the particles' weight at Gale Crater where Curiosity landed. This result has global implications, because these materials are likely distributed around the Red Planet.” As lead author Laurie Leshin, of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute…put it, “that means astronaut pioneers could extract roughly 2 pints (0.946353 liters) of water out of every cubic foot (0.028317m³) of Martian dirt…” 52

       Water vapor in the atmosphere will be discussed later in conjunction with Figures 45 and 46 in Section 13 of this report. Relative humidity at Gale Crater varied from less than 10% to about 60%. Further, in 2011, we learned that, “It seems that previous models have greatly underestimated the quantities of water vapor at heights of 20–50 km, with as much as 10 to 100 times more water than expected at this altitude.” See

        What we may be looking at might be due to lack of information or confusion or inadequately designed equipment in earlier years. However, at times, as with the improper color of the Martian atmosphere portrayed by NASA (allegedly at the order of NASA Administrator Dr. James Fletcher at the landing of VL-1,) it is hard to believe that more of the data is not being colored by an agenda not in line with scientific integrity.53 Sky color problems are illustrated later in conjunction with 42A through 42I.

       At the North Pole there is no more than a meter of frozen carbon dioxide in its winter, and there are about 8 meters of frozen carbon dioxide at the South Pole in its winter. There is no large perennial CO2 cap at either pole.54 Thus it’s hard to understand why the Figure 23 pressure curve derived from MSL data is almost symmetrical. Indeed, there seems to be a growing realization that there is not enough CO2 at the poles to control Martian air pressure in the fashion thought before.

       Any attempt to calculate the temperature required for CO2 to freeze on Mars requires a correct understanding of pressure (and in particular partial pressure of CO2 there as well as temperature). On Earth the lowest temperature ever recorded -89.2º C (183.95K) was at the Vostok Station in Antarctica.55 The temperature required to freeze pure CO2 at 1 atmosphere of pressure (1,013.25 mbar) is -78.5º C (194.54 K), but carbon dioxide constitutes only .0004 atmospheric of partial pressure. At that low partial pressure a temperature of -140º C is required to produce solid carbon dioxide which is why the gas does not freeze anywhere on Earth. At the (NASA) expected pressure for the Martian South Polar area the temperature of all CO2 ice would be ~142K (Byrne, S. and Ingersol, A.P.).56

       All efforts to explain what is being seen in terms of rapid springtime CO2 ice retreat at the South Pole and weather in general are based on a need to fit what is seen with expected pressure based on published lander data. We argue that there are too many problems with weather seen for the pressures asserted by NASA to be true. Weather mysteries can best be resolved by exposing why the data is flawed.

       Given the fact that about a meter CO2 is condensing out of the atmosphere over the Martian North Pole in its winter, we might expect the pressure to not be as high there as it is in the tropics, where at least on Earth, the atmosphere is thicker anyway. But the average pressure between Ls 270° and 271° was 9.771 mbar for Viking 2's Year 1 and 9.937 mbar for the same period for its Year 2.  During this same period for Viking 1 the average pressure was given as only 8.793 mbar. So for Year 1, the average pressure was 0.978 mbar higher than expected at Viking 2; and for Year 2 it was 1.114 mbar higher than projected. Whatever carbon dioxide was supposed to be sublimating at the South Pole where it was summer solstice did not seem to affect the much closer Viking 1 as much as it allegedly did the much further North Viking 2.

       The same problem was present again with MSL which sat at 4.59 º South (closest to the South Pole). There the average annual pressure should be around 9.168 mbar, and pressures should be higher or highest around Ls 270. The actual average reported pressure for Ls 270 was 9.1325 mbar. However, the REMS Team revised their data on July 3, 2013 to have average daily pressures vary at MSL between Ls 267 and Ls 272 to between 8.86 mbar at Ls 269 (MSL Sol 195 on February 22, 2013) and a high for the year of 9.40 mbar on Ls 268 for Sol 192 on February 19, 2013. This variation in pressure, 0.54 mbar over three days, seems quite high, but we discussed earlier an increase of 0.62 mbar in a single hour at Viking 1 at its sol 332.3 at Ls 286 (see Figures 4 and 16e and When we started to write about the 9.40 mbar pressure, which was off the predicted pressure curve, JPL revised it again. By June 17, 2014 JPL eliminated all data for MSL Sol 192 except sunrise and sunset times. Again, when pressure measured is not what was predicted they simply refuse to stand by what their sensors tell them. Ashima Research also revised its report to shows no data for MSL Sol 192.

       JPL data manipulation was also seen for off the curve MSL Sol 370. Although the pressures for Sol 369 and 371 were both 865 Pa, for Sol 370 what was reported was an all- time high mean pressure: 1149 Pa, essentially the upper limit in the pressure that the transducer could measure. It occurred at Ls 9 on September 21, 2013 (see Sections 2.5 and Figures 13 to 14D). Any mean reading this high indicates higher pressure that could not be measured. So what did JPL do? As stated earlier they simply changed 1149 Pa to 865 Pa with the hope or belief that nobody would notice, so it seemed hard to believe that the 1,179 and 1,200 Pa pressures for sols 1,160 and 1,161 would stand (and in fact, they did not – they were revised to 898 and 897 Pa respectively).

This report is continued with Figure 23 HERE.