The temperature of Europa's subsurface water ocean

H. J. Melosh, A. G. Ekholm, A. P. Showman, R. D. Lorenz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


A 100 km deep liquid water ocean probably underlies the icy exterior of Jupiter's satellite Europa. The long-term persistence of a liquid ocean beneath an ice shell presents a thermal conundrum: Is the temperature of the ocean equal to the freezing point of water at the bottom of the ice shell, or is it equal to the somewhat warmer temperature at which water attains its maximum density? We argue that most of the ocean is at the temperature of maximum density and that the bulk of the vigorously convecting ocean is separated from the bottom of the ice shell by a thin "stratosphere" of stably stratified water which is at the freezing point, and therefore buoyant. If Europa's subsurface water ocean is warm, it could explain the widespread geologic evidence for apparent melt-through events observed on its surface and may constrain the overall age of its surface.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)498-502
Number of pages5
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2004


  • Europa
  • Interiors
  • Thermal history

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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