Although dust storms are common on the Red Planet, they can sometimes be treacherous enough to wreak havoc -- which happened last year when a major storm halted Opportunity rover's mission.
According to NASA, dust-trapped water vapor may be riding them like an elevator to space, where solar radiation breaks apart their molecules. This could help explain how Mars' water disappeared over billions of years.
"Normally the dust would fall down in a day or so," the paper's lead author, Nicholas Heavens of Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia, said in a statement. "But during a global storm, dust towers are renewed continuously for weeks."
Scientists are unsure what causes the global dust storms, and they've only studied fewer than a dozen at this point.
"Global dust storms are really unusual," Mars Climate Sounder scientist David Kass of JPL said in a statement. "We really don't have anything like this on the Earth, where the entire planet's weather changes for several months."