Evidence for Gravity Waves in the Thermosphere of Saturn and Implications for Global Circulation

Zarah L. Brown, Alexander S. Medvedev, Ekaterina D. Starichenko, Tommi T. Koskinen, Ingo C.F. Müller-Wodarg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Gravity wave (GW) signatures have been derived from temperature profiles observed by Cassini/Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph in the Saturnian thermosphere during the Grand Finale campaign. They demonstrate upward propagation of GW packets, their saturation, and breaking. We determined wave amplitudes, potential energy, and momentum fluxes and estimated the associated wave drag imposed by dissipating harmonics on the ambient flow. The data set of 18 profiles covers the middle and high latitudes of both hemispheres, which allows for exploring the global impact of waves. The diagnostics based on the Transformed Eulerian Mean and modified geostrophy approach reveal that the GW drag induces an equatorward flow in both hemispheres, facilitating transport of heat away from the auroral zones and redistributing energy across latitudes. Like all the outer planets, Saturn's thermosphere is hundreds of degrees hotter than what follows from radiative balance and these results help to explain the observed temperatures at all latitudes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2021GL097219
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 28 2022


  • Cassini
  • Saturn
  • dynamics
  • giant planet
  • gravity waves
  • thermosphere

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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