Results of the Imager for Mars Pathfinder windsock experiment

Robert Sullivan, Ronald Greeley, Michael Kraft, Gregory Wilson, Matthew Golombek, Ken Herkenhoff, James Murphy, Peter Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

83 Scopus citations


The Imager for Mars Pathfinder (IMP) windsock experiment measured wind speeds at three heights within 1.2 m of the Martian surface during Pathfinder landed operations. These wind data allowed direct measurement of near-surface wind profiles on Mars for the first time, including determination of aerodynamic roughness length and wind friction speeds. Winds were light during periods of windsock imaging, but data from the strongest breezes indicate aerodynamic roughness length of 3 cm at the landing site, with wind friction speeds reaching 1 m/s. Maximum wind friction speeds were about half of the threshold-of-motion friction speeds predicted for loose, fine-grained materials on smooth Martian terrain and about one third of the threshold-of-motion friction speeds predicted for the same size particles over terrain with aerodynamic roughness of 3 cm. Consistent with this, and suggesting that low wind speeds prevailed when the windsock array was not imaged and/or no particles were available for aeolian transport, no wind-related changes to the surface during mission operations have been recognized. The aerodynamic roughness length reported here implies that proposed deflation of fine particles around the landing site, or activation of duneforms seen by IMP and Sojourner, would require wind speeds >28 m/s at the Pathfinder top windsock height (or >31 m/s at the equivalent Viking wind sensor height of 1.6 m) and wind speeds >45 m/s above 10 m. These wind speeds would cause rock abrasion if a supply of durable particles were available for saltation. Previous analyses indicate that the Pathfinder landing site probably is rockier and rougher than many other plains units on Mars, so aerodynamic roughness length elsewhere probably is less than the 3-cm value reported for the Pathfinder site.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1999JE001234
Pages (from-to)24547-24562
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Planets
Issue numberE10
StatePublished - Oct 25 2000
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Oceanography


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