Saturn inhabits a dynamical regime of rapidly rotating, internally heated atmospheres similar to Jupiter. Zonal winds have remained fairly steady since the time of Voyager except in the equatorial zone and slightly stronger winds occur at deeper levels. Eddies supply energy to the jets at a rate somewhat less than on Jupiter and mix potential vorticity near westward jets. Convective clouds exist preferentially in cyclonic shear regions as on Jupiter but also near jets, including major outbreaks near 35°S associated with Saturn electrostatic discharges, and in sporadic giant equatorial storms perhaps generated from frequent events at depth. The implied meridional circulation at and below the visible cloud tops consists of upwelling (downwelling) at cyclonic (anti-cyclonic) shear latitudes. Thermal winds decay upward above the clouds, implying a reversal of the circulation there. Warm-core vortices with associated cyclonic circulations exist at both poles, including surrounding thick high clouds at the south pole. Disequilibrium gas concentrations in the tropical upper troposphere imply rising motion there. The radiative-convective boundary and tropopause occur at higher pressure in the southern (summer) hemisphere due to greater penetration of solar heating there. A temperature knee of warm air below the tropopause, perhaps due to haze heating, is stronger in the summer hemisphere as well. Saturn's south polar stratosphere is warmer than predicted by radiative models and enhanced in ethane, suggesting subsidence-driven adiabatic warming there. Recent modeling advances suggest that shallow weather layer theories of jet pumping may be viable if water condensation is the source of energy input driving the flow, and that deep convective cylinder models with a sufficiently large tangent cylinder radius can reproduce observed flow features as well.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physics and Astronomy(all)