Takeshi Imamura, Jonathan Mitchell, Sebastien Lebonnois, Yohai Kaspi, Adam P. Showman, and Oleg Korablev. Superrotation in Planetary Atmospheres. Space Science Reviews, 216(5):87, July 2020. [ bib | DOI | PDF version | ADS link ]
Superrotation is a dynamical regime where the atmosphere circulates around the planet in the direction of planetary rotation with excess angular momentum in the equatorial region. Superrotation is known to exist in the atmospheres of Venus, Titan, Jupiter, and Saturn in the solar system. Some of the exoplanets also exhibit superrotation. Our understanding of superrotation in a framework of circulation regimes of the atmospheres of terrestrial planets is in progress thanks to the development of numerical models; a global instability involving planetary-scale waves seems to play a key role, and the dynamical state depends on the Rossby number, a measure of the relative importance of the inertial and Coriolis forces, and the thermal inertia of the atmosphere. Recent general circulation models of Venus's and Titan's atmospheres demonstrated the importance of horizontal waves in the angular momentum transport in these atmospheres and also an additional contribution of thermal tides in Venus's atmosphere. The atmospheres of Jupiter and Saturn also exhibit strong superrotation. Recent gravity data suggests that these superrotational flows extend deep into the planet, yet currently no single mechanism has been identified as driving this superrotation. Moreover, atmospheric circulation models of tidally locked, strongly irradiated exoplanets have long predicted the existence of equatorial superrotation in their atmospheres, which has been attributed to the result of the strong day-night thermal forcing. As predicted, recent Doppler observations and infrared phase curves of hot Jupiters appear to confirm the presence of superrotation on these objects.
Christophe Mathé, Sandrine Vinatier, Bruno Bézard, Sébastien Lebonnois, Nicolas Gorius, Donald E. Jennings, Andrei Mamoutkine, Ever Guandique, and Jan Vatant d'Ollone. Seasonal changes in the middle atmosphere of Titan from Cassini/CIRS observations: Temperature and trace species abundance profiles from 2004 to 2017. Icarus, 344:113547, July 2020. [ bib | DOI | arXiv | PDF version | ADS link ]
The Cassini/Composite InfraRed Spectrometer (CIRS) instrument has been observing the middle atmosphere of Titan over almost half a Saturnian year. We used the CIRS dataset processed through the up-to-date calibration pipeline to characterize seasonal changes of temperature and abundance profiles in the middle atmosphere of Titan, from mid-northern winter to early northern summer all around the satellite. We used limb spectra from 590 to 1500 cm-1 at 0.5-cm-1 spectral resolution, which allows us to probe different altitudes. We averaged the limb spectra recorded during each flyby on a fixed altitude grid to increase the signal-to-noise ratio. These thermal infrared data were analyzed by means of a radiative transfer code coupled with an inversion algorithm, in order to retrieve vertical temperature and abundance profiles. These profiles cover an altitude range of approximately 100 to 600 km, at 10- or 40-km vertical resolution (depending on the observation). Strong changes in temperature and composition occur in both polar regions where a vortex is in place during the winter. At this season, we observe a global enrichment in photochemical compounds in the mesosphere and stratosphere and a hot stratopause located around 0.01 mbar, both linked to downwelling in a pole-to-pole circulation cell. After the northern spring equinox, between December 2009 and April 2010, a stronger enhancement of photochemical compounds occurred at the north pole above the 0.01-mbar region, likely due to combined photochemical and dynamical effects. During the southern autumn in 2015, above the South pole, we also observed a strong enrichment in photochemical compounds that contributed to the cooling of the stratosphere above 0.2 mbar (∼300 km). Close to the northern spring equinox, in December 2009, the thermal profile at 74°N exhibits an oscillation that we interpret in terms of an inertia-gravity wave.
M. Sylvestre, N. A. Teanby, J. Vatant d'Ollone, S. Vinatier, B. Bézard, S. Lebonnois, and P. G. J. Irwin. Seasonal evolution of temperatures in Titan's lower stratosphere. Icarus, 344:113188, July 2020. [ bib | DOI | arXiv | PDF version | ADS link ]
The Cassini mission offered us the opportunity to monitor the seasonal evolution of Titan's atmosphere from 2004 to 2017, i.e. half a Titan year. The lower part of the stratosphere (pressures greater than 10 mbar) is a region of particular interest as there are few available temperature measurements, and because its thermal response to the seasonal and meridional insolation variations undergone by Titan remain poorly known. In this study, we measure temperatures in Titan's lower stratosphere between 6 mbar and 25 mbar using Cassini/CIRS spectra covering the whole duration of the mission (from 2004 to 2017) and the whole latitude range. We can thus characterize the meridional distribution of temperatures in Titan's lower stratosphere, and how it evolves from northern winter (2004) to summer solstice (2017). Our measurements show that Titan's lower stratosphere undergoes significant seasonal changes, especially at the South pole, where temperature decreases by 19 K at 15 mbar in 4 years.
T. Encrenaz, T. K. Greathouse, E. Marcq, H. Sagawa, T. Widemann, B. Bézard, T. Fouchet, F. Lefèvre, S. Lebonnois, S. K. Atreya, Y. J. Lee, R. Giles, S. Watanabe, W. Shao, X. Zhang, and C. J. Bierson. HDO and SO2 thermal mapping on Venus. V. Evidence for a long-term anti-correlation. Astronomy Astrophysics, 639:A69, July 2020. [ bib | DOI | PDF version | ADS link ]
Since January 2012, we have been monitoring the behavior of sulfur dioxide and water on Venus, using the Texas Echelon Cross-Echelle Spectrograph imaging spectrometer at the NASA InfraRed Telescope Facility (IRTF, Mauna Kea Observatory). Here, we present new data recorded in February and April 2019 in the 1345 cm-1 (7.4 μm) spectral range, where SO2, CO2, and HDO (used as a proxy for H2O) transitions were observed. The cloud top of Venus was probed at an altitude of about 64 km. As in our previous studies, the volume mixing ratio (vmr) of SO2 was estimated using the SO2/CO2 line depth ratio of weak transitions; the H2O volume mixing ratio was derived from the HDO/CO2 line depth ratio, assuming a D/H ratio of 200 times the Vienna standard mean ocean water. As reported in our previous analyses, the SO2 mixing ratio shows strong variations with time and also over the disk, showing evidence for the formation of SO2 plumes with a lifetime of a few hours; in contrast, the H2O abundance is remarkably uniform over the disk and shows moderate variations as a function of time. We have used the 2019 data in addition to our previous dataset to study the long-term variations of SO2 and H2O. The data reveal a long-term anti-correlation with a correlation coefficient of -0.80; this coefficient becomes -0.90 if the analysis is restricted to the 2014-2019 time period. The statistical analysis of the SO2 plumes as a function of local time confirms our previous result with a minimum around 10:00 and two maxima near the terminators. The dependence of the SO2 vmr with respect to local time shows a higher abundance at the evening terminator with respect to the morning. The dependence of the SO2 vmr with respect to longitude exhibits a broad maximum at 120-200° east longitudes, near the region of Aphrodite Terra. However, this trend has not been observed by other measurements and has yet to be confirmed.
Sebastien Lebonnois. Super-rotating the venusian atmosphere. Science, 368(6489):363-364, April 2020. [ bib | DOI | PDF version | ADS link ]
Among the intriguing mysteries that remain for planetary atmospheres, the phenomenon of super-rotation is still a teasing problem. An atmosphere in super-rotation rotates globally faster than the solid body of the planet. In our solar system, super-rotation is observed on Venus and the largest moon of Saturn, Titan (1). The challenge is to explain how angular momentum can accumulate in the atmosphere and what controls the atmospheric angular momentum budget. On page 405 of this issue, Horinouchi et al. (2) address this by analyzing observation data from the onboard cameras of the Venus-orbiting Akatsuki spacecraft.
Sébastien Lebonnois, Gerald Schubert, Tibor Kremic, Leah M. Nakley, Kyle G. Phillips, Josette Bellan, and Daniel Cordier. An experimental study of the mixing of CO2 and N2 under conditions found at the surface of Venus. Icarus, 338:113550, March 2020. [ bib | DOI | PDF version | ADS link ]
Based on the only reliable temperature profile available in the deepest ∼10 km layer above Venus' surface (obtained by the VeGa-2 landing probe), the mixing conditions of the main constituents of Venus's atmosphere, CO2 and N2, have been questioned. In this work, we report the results of a series of experiments that were done in the GEER facility at Glenn Research Center to investigate the homogeneity of CO2/N2 gas mixtures at 100 bars and temperatures ranging from ∼296 K to ∼735 K. When the gas mixtures are initially well-mixed, separation of the two gases based on their molecular mass does not occur over the time scales observed; although, small systematic variations in composition remain to be fully interpreted. However, when N2 is injected on top of CO2 (layered fill), the very large density ratio makes it more difficult to mix the two chemical species. Timescales of mixing are of the order of 102 hours over the height of the test vessel (roughly 60 cm), and even longer when the gas mixture is at rest and only molecular diffusion is occurring. At room temperature, close to the critical point of the mixture, large pressure variations are obtained for the layered fill, as N2 slowly mixes into CO2. This can be explained by large density variations induced by the mixing. For conditions relevant to the near-surface atmosphere of Venus, separation of CO2 and N2 based on their molecular mass and due to physical properties of the gas mixture is not demonstrated, but cannot be firmly excluded either. This suggests that if the compositional vertical gradient deduced from the VeGa-2 temperature profile is to be trusted, it would most probably be due to some extrinsic processes (not related to gas properties, e.g. CO2 volcanic inputs) and large mixing time constants.
A. Spiga, S. Guerlet, E. Millour, M. Indurain, Y. Meurdesoif, S. Cabanes, T. Dubos, J. Leconte, A. Boissinot, S. Lebonnois, M. Sylvestre, and T. Fouchet. Global climate modeling of Saturn's atmosphere. Part II: Multi-annual high-resolution dynamical simulations. Icarus, 335:113377, January 2020. [ bib | DOI | arXiv | PDF version | ADS link ]
The Cassini mission unveiled the intense and diverse activity in Saturn's atmosphere: banded jets, waves, vortices, equatorial oscillations. To set the path towards a better understanding of those phenomena, we performed high-resolution multi-annual numerical simulations of Saturn's atmospheric dynamics. We built a new Global Climate Model [GCM] for Saturn, named the Saturn DYNAMICO GCM, by combining a radiative-seasonal model tailored for Saturn to a hydrodynamical solver based on an icosahedral grid suitable for massively-parallel architectures. The impact of numerical dissipation, and the conservation of angular momentum, are examined in the model before a reference simulation employing the Saturn DYNAMICO GCM with a 1/2deg latitude-longitude resolution is considered for analysis. Mid-latitude banded jets showing similarity with observations are reproduced by our model. Those jets are accelerated and maintained by eddy momentum transfers to the mean flow, with the magnitude of momentum fluxes compliant with the observed values. The eddy activity is not regularly distributed with time, but appears as bursts; both barotropic and baroclinic instabilities could play a role in the eddy activity. The steady-state latitude of occurrence of jets is controlled by poleward migration during the spin-up of our model. At the equator, a weakly-superrotating tropospheric jet and vertically-stacked alternating stratospheric jets are obtained in our GCM simulations. The model produces Yanai (Rossby-gravity), Rossby and Kelvin waves at the equator, as well as extratropical Rossby waves, and large-scale vortices in polar regions. Challenges remain to reproduce Saturn's powerful superrotating jet and hexagon-shaped circumpolar jet in the troposphere, and downward-propagating equatorial oscillation in the stratosphere.
M. Lefèvre, A. Spiga, and S. Lebonnois. Mesoscale modeling of Venus' bow-shape waves. Icarus, 335:113376, January 2020. [ bib | DOI | arXiv | PDF version | ADS link ]
The Akatsuki instrument LIR measured an unprecedented wave feature at the top of Venusian cloud layer. Stationary bow-shape waves of thousands of kilometers large lasting several Earth days have been observed over the main equatorial mountains. Here we use for the first time a mesoscale model of the Venus's atmosphere with high-resolution topography and fully coupled interactive radiative transfer computations. Mountain waves resolved by the model form large-scale bow shape waves with an amplitude of about 1.5 K and a size up to several decades of latitude similar to the ones measured by the Akatsuki spacecraft. The maximum amplitude of the waves appears in the afternoon due to an increase of the near-surface stability. Propagating vertically the waves encounter two regions of low static stability, the mixed layer between approximately 18 and 30 km and the convective layer between 50 and 55 km. Some part of the wave energy can pass through these regions via wave tunneling. These two layers act as wave filter, especially the deep atmosphere layer. The encounter with these layers generates trapped lee waves propagating horizontally. No stationary waves is resolved at cloud top over the polar regions because of strong circumpolar transient waves, and a thicker deep atmosphere mixed layer that filters most of the mountain waves.