Earth’s oceanography helps to unravel the mystery of Jupiter’s flowing cyclones

Leah Siegman When studying the whirlpool waters of the Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica, she happened to see a poster image of a cyclone around Jupiter’s north pole taken by NASA. Juno spacecraft“I looked at it and I was shocked:’Wow, this looks like turbulence in the ocean,'” she said.

Therefore, Siegelman, a researcher at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, turned his attention to the latest detailed picture Exoplanetary. She and her team proved for the first time that a type of convection seen on Earth explains the physical forces and energy that generate cyclones on Jupiter. (Since air and water are both “fluids”, from a physics point of view, the same principles apply to the atmospheres of gas giant planets and our oceans.) They published their findings in the journal today Physical physics.

Jupiter is the 400 million-pound elephant in the solar system. It produces huge cyclones, namely large storms that revolve around low-pressure areas. Some are thousands of miles wide-as large as the continental United States-with gusts up to 250 miles per hour. Eight largest planets were discovered at the north pole of the earth, and five at the north and south poles. Scientists have been guessing their origins for years, but by mapping these storms and measuring their wind speed and temperature, Siegelman and her colleagues showed how they actually formed. Small vortices sprang up in the turbulent clouds—not much different from the ocean vortices that Siegelman was familiar with—and then they began to merge with each other. She said that cyclones grow by constantly devouring smaller clouds and deriving energy from them so that they can continue to spin.

This is a clever way to study extreme weather on a planet more than 500 million miles away. “The authors are obviously from meteorology and oceanography disciplines. These people are using this wealth of literature and applying it in complex ways to planets that we can barely reach,” said Morgan O’Neill, an atmospheric scientist at Stanford University, who modeled the Earth. On the physics of hurricanes and tornadoes, and applied her work to Saturn.

In particular, O’Neill said that the team of scientists showed how Jupiter’s cyclones, like thunderstorms on Earth, were formed through a vulgar-sounding name: “moist convection.” In the depths of the planet’s atmosphere, warm, less dense air gradually rises, while cooler, denser air near the cold vacuum of space drifts downward. This creates turbulence, which can be seen in Jupiter’s spinning, water-filled ammonia cloud.


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