NASA aims to predict dust storms on Mars

New temperature studies have revealed storm patterns on the Red Planet.

If NASA is going to send people to Mars, it needs to predict the planet's weather. You don't want to land in the middle of a ferocious storm that wipes out your entire mission. Thankfully, the space agency just took a step toward making that happen. It's now detecting patterns in large regional dust storms by studying high-altitude (16 miles) temperature data from its orbiters. As dusty air tends to be much hotter at those heights, it's easy to tell when a giant regional storm is flaring up -- you just look for hot patches and their effects on the wind.

There's still a lot more to understand at this stage. Also, the findings don't apply to either local storms (which don't have much impact on the high Martian sky) or all-encompassing global storms. If NASA can refine its techniques, though, it could tell future explorers both where to land and when to take cover.