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A pole-to-equator ocean overturning circulation on Enceladus

Lobo, Ana H. and Thompson, Andrew F. and Vance, Steven D. and Tharimena, Saikiran (2021) A pole-to-equator ocean overturning circulation on Enceladus. Nature Geoscience, 14 (4). pp. 185-189. ISSN 1752-0894. doi:10.1038/s41561-021-00706-3.

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Enceladus is believed to have a saltwater global ocean, heated at the ocean–core interface and losing heat to the floating ice shell above. This configuration suggests an important role for vertical convection. The ice shell has dramatic meridional thickness variations that, in steady state, must be sustained by the ocean circulation against processes acting to remove these anomalies. This could be achieved through spatially separated regions of freezing and melting at the ocean–ice interface. Here, we use an idealized, dynamical ocean model forced by an observationally guided density flux at the ocean–ice interface to argue that Enceladus’s interior ocean should support a meridional overturning circulation. This circulation establishes an interior density structure that is more complex than in studies that have focused only on vertical convection, including a shallow freshwater lens in the polar regions. Spatially separated sites of ice formation and melt enable Enceladus to sustain significant vertical and horizontal stratification, which influences interior heat transport and is critical for understanding the relationship between a global ocean and the planetary energy budget. On the basis of our model, the presence of low salinity layers near the polar ocean–ice interface implies the ocean’s bulk salinity could substantially exceed values inferred from Cassini plume samples.

Item Type:Article
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URLURL TypeDescription ReadCube access Paper
Lobo, Ana H.0000-0003-3862-1817
Thompson, Andrew F.0000-0003-0322-4811
Vance, Steven D.0000-0002-4242-3293
Tharimena, Saikiran0000-0002-1841-1911
Additional Information:© 2021 Nature Publishing Group. Received 06 June 2020; Accepted 05 February 2021; Published 25 March 2021. A portion of this research was carried out at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (80NM0018D0004). This work was partially supported by JPL’s Strategic Research and Technology Development programme, and by the Icy Worlds node of NASA’s Astrobiology Institute (13-13NAI7 2-0024). ©2020. All rights reserved. A.F.T. was supported by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. Data availability: The data used in this article are available in the Caltech Data Repository: Code availability: A copy of code is stored in the Caltech Data Repository: Author Contributions: A.H.L., A.F.T. and S.D.V. conceived and designed the study. A.H.L. and A.F.T. wrote the code, ran the experiments and analysed results. A.H.L., A.F.T., S.T. and S.D.V. co-wrote the paper. The authors declare no competing interests. Peer review information: Primary Handling Editors: Tamara Goldin; Stefan Lachowycz. Nature Geoscience thanks Louis-Alexandre Couston and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
NASA13-13NAI7 2-0024
David and Lucile Packard FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:Astrobiology; Cryospheric science; Physical oceanography; Rings and moons
Issue or Number:4
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20200901-084534440
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Official Citation:Lobo, A.H., Thompson, A.F., Vance, S.D. et al. A pole-to-equator ocean overturning circulation on Enceladus. Nat. Geosci. 14, 185–189 (2021).
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:105191
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:08 Sep 2020 19:24
Last Modified:09 Apr 2021 16:49

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