We present simulations of the interannual variability of martian global dust storms (GDSs) with a simplified low-order model (LOM) of the general circulation. The simplified model allows one to conduct computationally fast long-term simulations of the martian climate system. The LOM is constructed by Galerkin projection of a 2D (zonally averaged) general circulation model (GCM) onto a truncated set of basis functions. The resulting LOM consists of 12 coupled nonlinear ordinary differential equations describing atmospheric dynamics and dust transport within the Hadley cell. The forcing of the model is described by simplified physics based on Newtonian cooling and Rayleigh friction. The atmosphere and surface are coupled: atmospheric heating depends on the dustiness of the atmosphere, and the surface dust source depends on the strength of the atmospheric winds. Parameters of the model are tuned to fit the output of the NASA AMES GCM and the fit is generally very good.\ud Interannual variability of GDSs is possible in the LOM, but only when stochastic forcing is added to the model. The stochastic forcing could be provided by transient weather systems or some surface process such as redistribution of the sand particles in storm generating zones on the surface. The results are sensitive to the value of the saltation threshold, which hints at a possible feedback between saltation threshold and dust storm activity. According to this hypothesis, erodable material builds up as a result of a local process, whose effect is to lower the saltation threshold until a GDS occurs. The saltation threshold adjusts its value so that dust storms are barely able to occur
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