Coupled convection and tidal dissipation in Europa's ice shell using non-Newtonian grain-size-sensitive (GSS) creep rheology

Lijie Han, Adam P. Showman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


We present self-consistent, fully coupled two-dimensional (2D) numerical models of thermal evolution and tidal heating to investigate how convection interacts with tidal dissipation under the influence of non-Newtonian grain-size-sensitive creep rheology (plausibly resulting from grain boundary sliding) in Europa's ice shell. To determine the thermal evolution, we solved the convection equations (using finite-element code ConMan) with the tidal dissipation as a heat source. For a given heterogeneous temperature field at a given time, we determined the tidal dissipation rate throughout the ice shell by solving for the tidal stresses and strains subject to Maxwell viscoelastic rheology (using finite-element code Tekton). In this way, the convection and tidal heating are fully coupled and evolve together. Our simulations show that the tidal dissipation rate can have a strong impact on the onset of thermal convection in Europa's ice shell under non-Newtonian GSS rheology. By varying the ice grain size (1-10mm), ice-shell thickness (20-120km), and tidal-strain amplitude (0-4×10-5), we study the interrelationship of convection and conduction regimes in Europa's ice shell. Under non-Newtonian grain-size-sensitive creep rheology and ice grain size larger than 1mm, no thermal convection can initiate in Europa's ice shell (for thicknesses <100km) without tidal dissipation. However, thermal convection can start in thinner ice shells under the influence of tidal dissipation. The required tidal-strain amplitude for convection to occur decreases as the ice-shell thickness increases. For grain sizes of 1-10mm, convection can occur in ice shells as thin as 20-40km with the estimated tidal-strain amplitude of 2×10-5 on Europa.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)262-267
Number of pages6
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2011


  • Europa
  • Ices
  • Jupiter

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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