Lori Fenton

Lori Fenton
Research Scientist
Degree/Major: 
Planetary Science
Major Awards: 

2006 NASA Fellowship for Early Career Researchers

Curriculum Vitae: 
Discipline: 
Planetary Science
The field of science is full of researchers working to understand nature. There's no way to tell what will help humanity and the world in the years to come, but some of it certainly will. In the meantime, sit back and enjoy how neat (and pretty) it is.

Planetary scientist Dr. Lori Fenton joined the SETI Institute as a principal investigator in 2006, and was awarded NASA's Carl Sagan Fellowship for Early Career Researchers that same year. Lori's primary research interests include aeolian geomorphology (how wind shapes a planetary surface) on Venus, Earth, Mars, and Titan; recent and ongoing climate changes; and the mobility of wind-blown sand and dust. Her research makes use of many different types of information, including fieldwork on Earth, visible and thermal imagery from spacecraft, and wind predictions from atmospheric models such as the NASA Ames Mars Global Climate Model (Ames MGCM) and the Mars Regional Atmospheric Modeling System (MRAMS).

Lori's recent publications describe how dunes and dune fields record climate change on Mars, the first evidence for dune migration on another planet, how atmospheric models can be used to account for wind gustiness and its effects on sand movement, and how the alignment of dune patterns can be used to quantitatively constrain local wind patterns.

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Dune Morphology and Atmospheric Models: Implications for Present-Day Martian Aeolian Activity

It has long been unclear whether the many sand dune fields on Mars are actively evolving in the present climatic era. Recent evidence of sand avalanching and active sustained saltation has been identified in high resolution images. In particular, we report the first clear indications of ripple migration over dark dune slopes observed from orbit. We propose a comprehensive study that will specifically address this knowledge gap, via the careful analysis of high-resolution spacecraft imagery over the majority of the planet (between 60° N and 60° S). In fact, even the preliminary investigation of a small sampling of such imagery has already yielded evidence of recent sand avalanching on dark dune slip faces and the first clear indications of ripple migration (superposed on the dark dunes) observed from orbit. Such morphological indications provide unprecedented details of sustained saltation on Mars. This newly found activity refutes the commonly held belief that dunes on Mars are inactive in the present-day wind regime. Such a provocative topic deserves immediate, detailed study to determine how current dune activity provides unique ground truth for today's weather patterns on Mars.

Characterizing Daytime Aeolian Erosion Potential on Mars Using a Turbulence-Resolving Atmospheric Model

A study of the impact of convection and wind within the Martian atmosphere upon the Martian surface.

Recent Climate Shifts Circulation Patterns, and Climate Driven Erosion Recorded in the Morphology of Southern Hemisphere Sand Dunes of Mars

A study of the impact of water during climate changes on Mars, erosion, and the formation of dunes.