Forecasting weather on Mars

Red planet may look good in photographs, but not very hospitable

Published On: Oct 02 2012 04:28:34 PM EDT
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

Ever wonder what the weather is like on Mars?

Ever since rover Curiosity landed, it has been transmitting weather reports back to Earth with staggering results. While the pictures that Curiosity sends back looks like an appealing place with warm conditions, Mars offers anything but "warm and pleasant."

According to quest.nasa.gov: "Scientists think that the climate on Mars 3.5 billion years ago was similar to that or early Earth: warm and wet. But because of chemical reactions between Mars' carbon dioxide atmosphere and water, most of its carbon dioxide was used up forming carbonate rocks. Earth is big enough and active enough that it has plate tectonics which recycles this carbonate back to carbon dioxide."

Since the carbon dioxide is locked up in the rocks on Mars, there is an extremely thin atmosphere which allows temps to plummet to lows only seen in the coldest of Antarctica winters.

First, you can leave the umbrella and rain slickers here on Earth. There hasn't been liquid water on Mars in millions of years (if ever). So basically there is zero chance of rainfall everyday.

The only water that may be left is either locked up in permafrost near the poles or as vapor that periodically form thin ice clouds. Second, you'll definitely need a coat -- a very heavy, thick coat -- along with scarfs, gloves, thermal underwear, blankets and animal hide to keep warm.

And while I'm at it, a space heater! (Get it, space heater? OK, I digress.) The conditions on Mars are incredibly different and incredibly cold.

Mars, according to NASA, is approximately 50 percent further away from the Sun than Earth is. That means Mars receives only about half as much insolation (incoming solar radiation) than we do here. This translates to temperatures (even in Mars' hottest summer at the equator) being a cool 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Overnight low temperatures can drop to a chilly 225 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. Temperatures in the mid latitudes (half way between the poles and the equator -- similar to where the United States is on Earth) run on average of 50 below zero Fahrenheit.

If you were to travel to Mars, forget about having a good hair day. Mars is a windy place with an average wind speed of 20mph, as recorded by the Mars Viking landers in the 1970s -- this according to NASA. Maximum wind speeds can top 60 mph and cause massive dust storms.

Mars is a very tranquil yet inhospitable place to us without well designed space suits that are built to withstand mega extremes. It will take technology far more advanced than what we have to make it possible for us to inhabit the planet.

Until then, let's leave the 'bots to do the hard work for us.