A physical model of Titan's aerosols

O. B. Toon, C. P. McKay, C. A. Griffith, R. P. Turco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

148 Scopus citations


Microphysical simulations of Titan's stratospheric haze show that aerosol microphysics is linked to organized dynamical processes. The detached haze layer may be a manifestation of 1 cm sec-1 vertical velocities at altitudes above 300 km. The hemispherical asymmetry in the visible albedo may be caused by 0.05 cm sec-1 vertical velocities at altitudes of 150 to 200 km, we predict contrast reversal beyond 0.6 μm. Tomasko and Smith's (1982, Icarus 51, 65-95) model, in which a layer of large particles above 220 km altitude is responsible for the high forward scattering observed by Rages and Pollack (1983, Icarus 55, 50-62), is a natural outcome of the detached haze layer being produced by rising motions if aerosol mass production occurs primarily below the detached haze layer. The aerosol's electrical charge is critical for the particle size and optical depth of the haze. The geometric albedo, particularly in the ultraviolet and near infrared, requires that the particle size be near 0.15 μm down to altitudes below 100 km, which is consistent with polarization observations (Tomasko and Smith 1982, West and Smith 1991, Icarus 90, 330-333). Above about 400 km and below about 150 km Yung et al.'s (1984, Astrophys. J. Suppl. Ser. 55, 465-506) diffusion coefficients are too small. Dynamical processes control the haze particles below about 150 km. The relatively large eddy diffusion coefficients in the lower stratosphere result in a vertically extensive region with nonuniform mixing ratios of condensable gases, so that most hydrocarbons may condense very near the tropopause rather than tens of kilometers above it. The optical depths of hydrocarbon clouds are probably less than one, requiring that abundant gases such as ethane condense on a subset of the haze particles to create relatively large, rapidly removed particles. The wavelength dependence of the optical radius is calculated for use in analyzing observations of the geometric albedo. The lower atmosphere and surface should be visible outside of regions of methane absorption in the near infrared. Limb scans at 2.0 μm wavelength should be possible down to about 75 km altitude.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)24-53
Number of pages30
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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