Decades of data reveal strange temperature fluctuations pulsing through Jupiter’s clouds

(ORDO NEWS) — A careful examination of the data for 40 years revealed that something strange is happening with Jupiter.

According to a large amount of information collected by both ground-based and space-based telescopes, the temperature in Jupiter’s upper troposphere shows regular fluctuations that do not appear to be associated with any seasonal fluctuations.

This surprising and intriguing discovery could help scientists finally understand the gas giant’s strange weather.

“Now we have solved one piece of the puzzle, which is that the atmosphere shows these natural cycles,” says planetary scientist Lee Fletcher from the University of Leicester in the UK.

“To understand what drives these patterns and why they occur on these particular time scales, we need to explore both above and below the cloud layers.”

It should come as no surprise to anyone that Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system, is very different from our beautiful habitable world.

It is driven by wild winds, covered in thick layers of clouds, and riddled with violent storms that can reach sizes larger than the Earth. Its extreme weather conditions are so alien that scientists have struggled to understand it.

We know that it is surrounded by alternating bands of light and dark clouds, known as zones and belts, that orbit the planet in opposite directions.

We also know from infrared images that the darker belts are warmer, at least in part, because the clouds are thinner, allowing more heat to escape from the planet’s interior.

Another interesting feature of Jupiter is that it does not have a large tilt. The axis around which the planet rotates deviates only 3 degrees from the plane of its orbit around the Sun.

Here on Earth and on other planets such as Mars and Saturn, a strong axial tilt (23.4 degrees for Earth) pushes the poles toward or away from the Sun, causing distinct seasonal temperature variations.

Scientists did not expect the appearance of Jupiter. to experience significant temperature cycles, but until now long-term datasets of the planet’s thermal profile have not been available to test if this is the case. Still.

Data from instruments aboard the Voyager and Cassini spacecraft, as well as from the Very Large Telescope, the Subaru Telescope and NASA‘s Infrared Telescope, was provided by a team led by planetary scientist Glenn Orton of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Division. Decades of laboratory thermal data to work with.

To their surprise, they found temperature fluctuations with a frequency of 4, 7–9, and 10–14 years in different latitudinal ranges. They found that they were not related to seasonal temperature fluctuations.

However, there is some internal consistency: as temperatures rise at certain latitudes in the northern hemisphere, they decrease at corresponding latitudes in the southern hemisphere, specifically 16, 22, and 30 degrees. As if Jupiter is a mirror of itself, divided by the equator, maintaining heat balance.

“It was the most amazing of all,” says Orton.

“We found a link between how temperatures varied at very remote latitudes.

This is similar to what we see on Earth, where weather and climate conditions in one region can have a marked effect on weather elsewhere, with patterns of variability appearing to be “tele-coupled” over vast distances. through the atmosphere.

It’s unclear what causes or links these temperature fluctuations, but a clue can be found higher up in Jupiter’s atmosphere, in the transparent stratospheric layer that sits above the cloudy troposphere.

At Jupiter’s equator, temperature fluctuations in the troposphere correspond to opposite changes in the stratosphere. This suggests that everything that happens at high altitudes affects what happens below, or vice versa.

And whatever it is, this study is a very important piece of the puzzle that could one day help scientists to accurately understand and predict the weather on Jupiter.

“Measuring these changes in temperature and periods over time is a step towards eventually getting a complete weather forecast for Jupiter if we can link cause and effect to the atmosphere,” says Fletcher.

And an even more important question is whether we can ever extend this to other giant planets to see if similar patterns emerge.”


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