Superrotation in Planetary Atmospheres

Takeshi Imamura, Jonathan Mitchell, Sebastien Lebonnois, Yohai Kaspi, Adam P. Showman, Oleg Korablev

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Superrotation is a dynamical regime where the atmosphere circulates around the planet in the direction of planetary rotation with excess angular momentum in the equatorial region. Superrotation is known to exist in the atmospheres of Venus, Titan, Jupiter, and Saturn in the solar system. Some of the exoplanets also exhibit superrotation. Our understanding of superrotation in a framework of circulation regimes of the atmospheres of terrestrial planets is in progress thanks to the development of numerical models; a global instability involving planetary-scale waves seems to play a key role, and the dynamical state depends on the Rossby number, a measure of the relative importance of the inertial and Coriolis forces, and the thermal inertia of the atmosphere. Recent general circulation models of Venus’s and Titan’s atmospheres demonstrated the importance of horizontal waves in the angular momentum transport in these atmospheres and also an additional contribution of thermal tides in Venus’s atmosphere. The atmospheres of Jupiter and Saturn also exhibit strong superrotation. Recent gravity data suggests that these superrotational flows extend deep into the planet, yet currently no single mechanism has been identified as driving this superrotation. Moreover, atmospheric circulation models of tidally locked, strongly irradiated exoplanets have long predicted the existence of equatorial superrotation in their atmospheres, which has been attributed to the result of the strong day-night thermal forcing. As predicted, recent Doppler observations and infrared phase curves of hot Jupiters appear to confirm the presence of superrotation on these objects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number87
JournalSpace Science Reviews
Issue number5
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020


  • Exoplanets
  • Gas giants
  • Planetary atmosphere
  • Superrotation
  • Titan
  • Venus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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