The albedo of martian dunes: Insights into aeolian activity and dust devil formation

K. A. Bennett, L. Fenton, James Bell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Wind is the primary geologic process currently active on the surface of Mars. Albedo variations at eight dune fields were tested based on the hypothesis that a dune's ripple migration rate is correlated to its albedo. On Mars, where the atmospheric pressure is low, dust is removed from the surface of a dune by saltating sand. Therefore, more active dunes should remove dust more efficiently than less active dunes. A dune's albedo was found to be low in the first half of the Mars year (Ls = 0–180°) and high in the second half (Ls = 180–360°) during the dusty season. Both dunes with fast- and slow-moving ripples exhibit low albedos, whereas dunes with ripples that migrate at intermediate speeds exhibit high albedos. A dune's minimum albedo does not have a simple correlation with its ripple migration rate. Instead, we propose that dust devils remove dust on slow-moving and immobile dunes, whereas saltating sand caused by strong winds removes dust on faster dunes. Albedo should not be used as a proxy for migration rate of ripples or dune activity, as it may be difficult to distinguish between fast- and slow-moving ripples on dunes that have the same albedo. The presence of dust devil tracks on a dune could indicate the dune and/or its ripples are either immobile or migrating slowly. We also propose that albedo variations on individual dune fields can reveal insight into the local wind regime.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)89-100
Number of pages12
JournalAeolian Research
StatePublished - Jun 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology
  • Earth-Surface Processes


Dive into the research topics of 'The albedo of martian dunes: Insights into aeolian activity and dust devil formation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this