Temperature cycling observed in Jupiter’s atmosphere

(ORDO NEWS) — There are no real seasons on Jupiter, but long-term observations have shown that the “weather” on the giant planet changes in fairly regular cycles.

And, as on Earth, the warming of the atmosphere in one hemisphere occurs simultaneously with the cooling in the other.

As the annual movement of the Earth around the Sun on the planet, one season replaces another.

This happens due to the position of the Earth’s axis of rotation: it is not perpendicular to the plane of the orbit, but is deviated by about 23 °, therefore, at different times of the year, different parts of the surface receive either more or less solar energy.

On Jupiter, this does not happen, since its axis is deviated by only 3 °, and the difference in illumination is almost imperceptible.

Nevertheless, long-term observations of the gas giant’s atmosphere have shown that the local climate is also characterized by more or less regular fluctuations.

The key part of Jupiter’s atmosphere can be called the upper layers of its troposphere, it is at this height that clouds are located.

Light yellow-white clouds are associated with relatively low temperatures, while dark reddish-brown clouds are associated with warmer temperatures.

The authors of the new study used data from ground-based telescopes and spacecraft that have studied Jupiter up close to gather information about infrared radiation from the warm parts of the troposphere.

The set of instruments that the scientists relied on includes the IRTF, VLT and Subaru telescopes, the Pioneer 10 and 11 probes, and Voyager.

This made it possible to track their temperature over three full annual revolutions of the planet around the Sun, each of which lasts about 12 Earth years.

It turned out that it fluctuates in more or less regular cycles, one of which lasts about four years, the other – seven to nine years, the third – 10-14 years.

Moreover, as with the change of seasons on Earth, warming at certain latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere occurs simultaneously with cooling at the same latitudes of the Southern Hemisphere, and vice versa.

Considering that Jupiter is orders of magnitude larger than the Earth, such a “long-range connection” of the weather of its hemispheres looks especially impressive. Why this happens is not yet known.

“We have discovered only part of the puzzle, the very fact that there are natural fluctuations in the atmosphere,” said Leigh Fletcher, one of the authors of the work.

“To find out what exactly causes these processes and why they develop on those time scales, we will need new observations of everything that happens both above and below the cloud layer.”

Perhaps the clue lies in Jupiter’s stratosphere, in the gas giant’s upper atmosphere.

Scientists have noticed that the rise in temperature at this height is accompanied by its fall below, in the troposphere, and vice versa.

It is through the stratosphere that remote regions of different hemispheres of this planet can be connected.


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