Martian aeolian dunes preserve a record of atmosphere/surface interaction on a variety of scales, serving as ground truth for both Global Climate Models (GCMs) and mesoscale climate models, such as the Mars Regional Atmospheric Modeling System (MRAMS). We hypothesize that the location of dune fields, expressed globally by geographic distribution and locally by dune centroid azimuth (DCA), may record the long-term integration of atmospheric activity across a broad area, preserving GCM-scale atmospheric trends. In contrast, individual dune morphology, as expressed in slipface orientation (SF), may be more sensitive to localized variations in circulation, preserving topographically controlled mesoscale trends. We test this hypothesis by comparing the geographic distribution, DCA, and SF of dunes with output from the Ames Mars GCM and, at a local study site, with output from MRAMS. When compared to the GCM: 1) dunes generally lie adjacent to areas with strongest winds, 2) DCA agrees fairly well with GCM modeled wind directions in smooth-floored craters, and 3) SF does not agree well with GCM modeled wind directions. When compared to MRAMS modeled winds at our study site: 1) DCA generally coincides with the part of the crater where modeled mean winds are weak, and 2) SFs are consistent with some weak, topographically influenced modeled winds. We conclude that: 1) geographic distribution may be valuable as ground truth for GCMs, 2) DCA may be useful as ground truth for both GCM and mesoscale models, and 3) SF may be useful as ground truth for mesoscale models. Copyright 2009 by the American Geophysical Union.
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Aeolian dunes as ground truth for atmospheric modeling on Mars