We use proper orthogonal decomposition (POD) to study a transient teleconnection event at the onset of the 2001 planet-encircling dust storm on Mars, in terms of empirical orthogonal functions (EOFs). There are several differences between this and previous studies of atmospheric events using EOFs. First, instead of using a single variable such as surface pressure or geopotential height on a given pressure surface, we use a dataset describing the evolution in time of global and fully three-dimensional atmospheric fields such as horizontal velocity and temperature. These fields are produced by assimilating Thermal Emission Spectrometer observations from NASA's Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft into a Mars general circulation model. We use total atmospheric energy (TE) as a physically meaningful quantity which weights the state variables. Second, instead of adopting the EOFs to define teleconnection patterns as planetary-scale correlations that explain a large portion of long time-scale variability, we use EOFs to understand transient processes due to localised heating perturbations that have implications for the atmospheric circulation over distant regions. The localised perturbation is given by anomalous heating due to the enhanced presence of dust around the northern edge of the Hellas Planitia basin on Mars. We show that the localised disturbance is seemingly restricted to a small number (a few tens) of EOFs. These can be classified as low-order, transitional, or high-order EOFs according to the TE amount they explain throughout the event. Despite the global character of the EOFs, they show the capability of accounting for the localised effects of the perturbation via the presence of specific centres of action. We finally discuss possible applications for the study of terrestrial phenomena with similar characteristics
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