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Where Does The Wind Blow?

Jan. 31, 2017

Aviv Lee Cohen-Zada, a doctoral student at The Earth and Planetary Image Facility, which is part of BGU’s Department of Geography and Environmental Development, has been awarded one of two Ramon Scholarships from the Israeli Ministry of Science, Technology and Space totalling NIS 250,000. The scholarship ceremony took place Monday during Israeli Space Week.

Wind influences the shaping of the surface of rocky planets. The emergence of landscape forms created by wind, such as sand dunes, alludes to the relationship between wind and land. Aviv Lee Cohen-Zada explores the most common form of landscape on the planets Mars, Venus and Earth - wind streaks. He examines how wind streaks are formed and the insights to be drawn from them regarding the climatic history of planets. His research has revealed that wind streaks differ in color on the surface and can be seen from space and from the air. Wind streaks located across the planets are evidence of the existence of atmosphere and gusts of wind strong enough to carry dust and sand, and, in and of themselves, actually represent climate processes.

Mapping wind streaks is used to map the wind direction near the surface of Mars and Venus, as well as evaluate the flow of global winds in the atmospheres of these planets. Although wind streaks exist even on Earth, they have never been studied from a global perspective, as has been done on Mars and Venus.  Cohen-Zada’s study is the first to do so. His research includes fieldwork as well as a comprehensive analysis of satellite imagery and climate data. 

Results of the study are expected to provide an explanation of the changing landscape due to wind activity and actually provide tools to validate and strengthen climate models on other planets. Climate models are numerical simulations of atmosphere movement and its changes over time. They are also used to predict climate conditions and assess human impact on climate change on Earth. Geomorphological research around the world could also lay the groundwork for comparative based planetary research. 

In planetary research, planets serve as natural laboratories for different conditions. Comparative planetary research, among other things, tries to understand why planets with similar key factors evolved so differently. One of the matters under investigation is the development and transformation of the planet's atmosphere.