It is mid-summer in the northern hemisphere of Mars--a time of enhanced heating that leads to the release of water vapor into the atmosphere. In the north polar region, temperature differences between bright areas of year-round ice and dark areas of sand and rock create strong winds that mix the atmosphere and create waves of clouds that swirl around the polar cap. Sometimes, as seen during the Viking mission, these winds form tight cyclones; other times, they weave an intricate pattern reflecting the turbulence of the circulation of the atmosphere.
This image is the first of five that are part of an animation that shows four days of observations of a representative portion of the northern hemisphere.
Malin Space Science Systems and the California Institute of Technology built the MOC using spare hardware from the Mars Observer mission. MSSS operates the camera from its facilities in San Diego, CA. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Mars Surveyor Operations Project operates the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft with its industrial partner, Lockheed Martin Astronautics, from facilities in Pasadena, CA and Denver, CO.