Electric and magnetic signatures of dust devils from the 2000-2001 MATADOR desert tests

W. M. Farrell, P. H. Smith, G. T. Delory, G. B. Hillard, J. R. Marshall, D. Catling, M. Hecht, D. M. Tratt, N. Renno, M. D. Desch, S. A. Cummer, J. G. Houser, B. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

131 Scopus citations


Dust devils are significant meteorological phenomena on Mars: They are ubiquitous, continually gardening the Martian surface, and may be the primary atmospheric dust-loading mechanism in nonstorm seasons. Further, dust grains in the swirling dust devils may become electrically charged via triboelectric effects. Electrical effects associated with terrestrial dust devils have been reported previously, but these were isolated measurements (electric fields only) with no corroborating measurements. To study the fluid and electrical forces associated with dust devils, NASA's Human Exploration and Development of Space (HEDS) enterprise sponsored a set of desert field tests with a suite of mutually compatible and complementary instruments in order to determine the relationship between electric, magnetic, and fluid forces. The project (originally a selected flight project) was entitled "Martian ATmosphere And Dust in the Optical and Radio" (MATADOR). In this work, we present a number of interesting examples of the electromagnetic nature of the dust devil. We also describe potential hazards of the dust devil and how similar devil- and storm-related forces on Mars might affect any human occupation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E03004 1-13
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Planets
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 25 2004


  • Atmospheric electricity
  • Dust devils
  • Electric fields
  • Magnetic fields
  • Triboelectricity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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