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Constraints on deep-seated zonal winds inside Jupiter and Saturn

Liu, Junjun and Goldreich, Peter M. and Stevenson, David J. (2008) Constraints on deep-seated zonal winds inside Jupiter and Saturn. Icarus, 196 (2). pp. 653-664. ISSN 0019-1035. doi:10.1016/j.icarus.2007.11.036.

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The atmospheres of Jupiter and Saturn exhibit strong and stable zonal winds. How deep the winds penetrate unabated into each planet is unknown. Our investigation favors shallow winds. It consists of two parts. The first part makes use of an Ohmic constraint; Ohmic dissipation associated with the planet's magnetic field cannot exceed the planet's net luminosity. Application to Jupiter (J) and Saturn (S) shows that the observed zonal winds cannot penetrate below a depth at which the electrical conductivity is about six orders of magnitude smaller than its value at the molecular–metallic transition. Measured values of the electrical conductivity of molecular hydrogen yield radii of maximum penetration of 0.96R_J and 0.86R_S, with uncertainties of a few percent of R. At these radii, the magnetic Reynolds number based on the zonal wind velocity and the scale height of the magnetic diffusivity is of order unity. These limits are insensitive to difficulties in modeling turbulent convection. They permit complete penetration along cylinders of the equatorial jets observed in the atmospheres of Jupiter and Saturn. The second part investigates how deep the observed zonal winds actually do penetrate. As it applies heuristic models of turbulent convection, its conclusions must be regarded as tentative. Truncation of the winds in the planet's convective envelope would involve breaking the Taylor–Proudman constraint on cylindrical flow. This would require a suitable nonpotential acceleration which none of the obvious candidates appears able to provide. Accelerations arising from entropy gradients, magnetic stresses, and Reynolds stresses appear to be much too weak. These considerations suggest that strong zonal winds are confined to shallow, stably stratified layers, with equatorial jets being the possible exception.

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Stevenson, David J.0000-0001-9432-7159
Additional Information:© 2008 Elsevier Inc. Received 2 August 2006; revised 15 November 2007. Available online 8 April 2008. We are grateful for support from the NASA Planetary Geology and Geophysics program.
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Subject Keywords:magnetic fields; atmospheres, dynamics; interiors
Issue or Number:2
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20100708-092110052
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Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:18946
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:09 Jul 2010 18:30
Last Modified:08 Nov 2021 23:48

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