Primary Hazards

Dust Storms

Dust Storms

The Martian atmosphere is about 1 percent as dense as on Earth, meaning it takes stronger winds in order to get objects airborne. Global dust storms are known and have been studied from Earth, but these large storms block out the sunlight which also powers them. As sunlight warms the ground, it also warms the air close to the surface. The warm air lower down and the cooler air higher become unstable, just like on Earth during thunderstorms. As the warm air rises it lifts dust up as well and creates everything from small localized dust devils to planet spanning storms. The larger storms typically only happen in the southern hemisphere of Mars, but can last months. As the dust blocks out sunlight, it in turn stops the air above the ground warming and therefore storms the pattern needed for storms to develop or continue. With the weather calm, it’s not long before the air close to the ground starts to warm again…

The Science

The dust storms on Mars can be damaging to equipment exposed to them and particularly cause problems for solar panels generating power. Although the atmosphere is thinner than on Earth, the Viking Landers measured wind speeds of up to 113 km/h (70 mp/h) during storms, and these winds can whip up sand and small rocks, damaging items, clogging machinery, etc. The small particles moved around by these storms are slightly electro static, and this causes them to cling to everything they make contact with and can also hamper clean up operations.  Every year Mars has dust storms big enough to cover continents which can last for weeks at a time, and on average every few years has planet encircling dust storms which can be much more intense.


The protracted dust storms on Mars pose a significant challenge, affecting every facet of the colony. Machinery breakdowns are caused by the infiltration of the fine dust, astronauts experience a decline in mental well-being due to reduced sunlight exposure and limited outdoor time, and vehicles find themselves incapacitated in the absence of adequate visibility. These storms can persist for as long as the warm and windy conditions remain.


Minimum intensity: 0

Maximum intensity: 190

Chance to Occur

Baseline Per Hour: 0%

Temperature Modifiers (Max one per hour):

+40% when over 260K
+20% when over 258K
+10% when over 256K
+5% when over 250K
+1% when over 240K

Wind Speed Modifiers (Max one per hour):

+80% when over 9.0 m/s
+60% when over 8.5 m/s
+40% when over 8.0 m/s
+20% when over 7.5 m/s
+10% when over 7.0 m/s
+5% when over 6.5 m/s
+1% when over 5.0 m/s


Damage calculation:

Intensity - Resistance

Items Vulnerable to this Hazard


No items found.