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Mars photoelectron energy and pitch angle dependence on intense lower atmospheric dust storms

By Shaosui Xu, Michael W. Liemohn, David L. Mitchell and Michael D. Smith


We have conducted a survey of the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) electron data across all the pitch angles of 12 usable energy bins (11–746 eV) for dayside photoelectron observations over regions of strong crustal fields. Studies have shown that solar EUV flux is the main controlling factor, but dust storms play an important role as well. Our study of different energies and pitch angles has shown that the unusual bimodal solar flux dependence is not a common feature but mainly found in low energies and a few bins of higher‐energy channels. By multiplying time‐history dust opacity with a solar EUV proxy as a new controlling function, the statistically significant increase of the correlation of photoelectron flux against this function indicates that dust storms have a long‐lasting influence on high‐altitude photoelectron fluxes, especially at low energies and the pitch angle source regions of high‐energy channels. The correlation increases experienced by the pitch angle source regions of all examined energy channels suggest that dust storms' influence most likely happens in the thermosphere‐ionosphere source region of the photoelectrons, rather than at exospheric altitudes at or above MGS. Furthermore, by isolating the global‐scale dust storm in Mars year 25 (2001) from the rest, the results suggest that this storm is entirely responsible for the second solar flux‐dependent trend. While not excluding the possibility of this phenomenon being a one‐time event, we hypothesize that there is a threshold of dust opacity at which the low‐altitude dust's influence on high‐altitude photoelectron fluxes begins to be significant. Key Points Dust storms' influence is strongest in the thermosphere‐ionosphere source region Hypothesize a dust opacity threshold for a long‐lived effect on the ionospher

Publisher: Cambridge Univ. Press
Year: 2014
DOI identifier: 10.1029/2007GL031904.
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