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Martian dust storms as a possible sink of atmospheric methane W. M. Farrell,1

Summary: Martian dust storms as a possible sink of atmospheric methane
W. M. Farrell,1
G. T. Delory,2
and S. K. Atreya3
Received 12 June 2006; revised 15 August 2006; accepted 31 August 2006; published 10 November 2006.
[1] Recent laboratory tests, analog studies and numerical
simulations all suggest that Martian dust devils and larger
dusty convective storms generate and maintain large-scale
electric fields. Such expected E-fields will have the
capability to create significant electron drift motion in the
collisional gas and to form an extended high energy (u ) kT)
electron tail in the distribution. We demonstrate herein that
these energetic electrons are capable of dissociating any trace
CH4 in the ambient atmosphere thereby acting as an
atmospheric sink of this important gas. We demonstrate
that the methane destruction rate increases by a factor of 1012
as the dust storm E-fields, E, increase from 5 to 25 kV/m,
resulting in an apparent decrease in methane stability from
$ 1010
sec to a value of $1000 seconds. While destruction


Source: Atreya, Sushil - Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Science, University of Michigan


Collections: Physics