Weather systems on Jupiter and Saturn might be driven by internal forces

The study also describes the formation of famous red spot on Jupiter.


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What drives the weather system on Earth?

The answer is that the weather on Earth is primarily driven by processes in a thin layer of the atmosphere near the planet’s surface. Similar consideration of weather system has been applied to other planets such as Jupiter and Saturn.

However, a new study by a trio of scientists proved such a hypothesis wrong.

The scientists- two with Harvard University, the other the University of Alberta, has found evidence that weather on Saturn and Jupiter may be driven by dramatically different forces than weather on Earth. Using computer simulations, scientists have shown that Jupiter and Saturn’s weather systems might be driven by internal rather than external forces, resulting in outcomes such as forming large anticyclones like Jupiter’s famous red spot.

For the study, scientists created two simulations to mimic conditions on Jupiter and Saturn. Instead of assuming the previous assumption- weather patterns are driven by turbulence just above the surface; scientists programmed their simulations to consider turbulent convection occurring in spherical shells as they rotate.

In one of the simulations, also known as the thin shell approach- the simulation was used to reproduce what happens with convection layers on gas giants such as Saturn and Jupiter—events they note have very little interaction with the planet’s magnetic field. They found that the simulation showed cyclones, zonal jets, and anticyclones forming spontaneously on Jupiter and Saturn.

Another simulation, also called the “thick shell” approach, was programmed to mimic the interactions by the planet’s inner dynamo and the outer hydrodynamic layer. It showed plumes being ejected from the magnetic layer, giving rise to what they describe as pancake-shaped weather patterns close to the surface.

Scientists suggested that some of the weather patterns on both planets are likely driven by jet streams and processes below the surface. They also recommend their reproductions show that the well known red spot may have shaped when the planet’s dynamo region set off processes that brought about the production of large anticyclones in the atmosphere.

Journal Reference:
  1. Rakesh Kumar Yadav et al. Deep convection-driven vortex formation on Jupiter and Saturn, Science Advances (2020). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abb9298


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