Revealing the intensity of turbulent energy transfer in planetary atmospheres
Geophysical Research Letters Wiley 47:23 (2020) e2020GL088685
Abstract:Images of the giant planets Jupiter and Saturn show highly turbulent storms and swirling clouds that reflect the intensity of turbulence in their atmospheres. Quantifying planetary turbulence is inaccessible to conventional tools, however, since they require large quantities of spatially and temporally resolved data. Here we show, using experiments, observations, and simulations, that potential vorticity (PV) is a straightforward and universal diagnostic that can be used to estimate turbulent energy transfer in a stably stratified atmosphere. We use the conservation of PV to define a length scale, LM, representing a typical distance over which PV is mixed by planetary turbulence. LM increases as the turbulent intensity increases and can be estimated from any latitudinal PV profile. Using this principle, we estimate LM within Jupiter's and Saturn's tropospheres, showing for the first time that turbulent energy transfer in Saturn's atmosphere is four times less intense than Jupiter's.
Simulating Jupiter's weather layer. Part II: Passive ammonia and water cycles
Icarus Elsevier 326 (2018) 253-268
Abstract:We examine the ammonia and water cycles in Jupiter's upper troposphere and lower stratosphere during spin-up of a multiple zonal jet circulation using the Oxford Jupiter GCM. Jupiter's atmosphere is simulated at 512 x 256 horizontal resolution with 33 vertical levels between 0.01 and 18 bar, putting the lowest level well below the expected water cloud base. Simulations with and without a 5.7 W/m2 interior heat source were run for 130000-150000d to allow the deep atmosphere to come into radiative-convective-dynamical equilibrium, with variants on the interior heating case including varying the initial tracer distribution, particle condensate diameter, and cloud process timescales. The cloud scheme includes simple representations of the ammonia and water cycles. Ammonia vapour changes phase to ice, and reacts with hydrogen sulphide to produce ammonium hydrosulphide. Water changes phases between vapour, liquid, and ice depending on local environmental conditions, and all condensates sediment at their respective Stokes velocities. With interior heating, clouds of ammonia ice, ammonium hydrosulphide ice, and water ice form with cloud bases around 0.4 bar, 1.5 bar, and 3 bar respectively. Without interior heating the ammonia cloud base forms in the same way, but the ammonium hydrosulphide and water clouds sediment to the bottom of the domain. The liquid water cloud is either absent or extremely sparse. Zonal structures form that correlate regions of strong latitudinal shear with regions of constant condensate concentration, implying that jets act as barriers to the mixing. Regions with locally high and low cloud concentrations also correlated with regions of upwelling and downwelling, respectively. Shortly after initialisation, the ammonia vapour distribution up to the cloud base resembles the enhanced concentration seen in Juno observations, due to strong meridional mean circulation at the equator. The resemblance decays rapidly over time, but suggests that at least some of the relevant physics is captured by the model. The comparison should improve with additional microphysics and better representation of the deep ammonia reservoir.
Baroclinic and barotropic instabilities in planetary atmospheres: energetics, equilibration and adjustment
Nonlinear Processes in Geophysics Copernicus Publications 27:1 (2020) 147-173
Abstract:Baroclinic and barotropic instabilities are well known as the mechanisms responsible for the production of the dominant energy-containing eddies in the atmospheres of Earth and several other planets, as well as Earth's oceans. Here we consider insights provided by both linear and nonlinear instability theories into the conditions under which such instabilities may occur, with reference to forced and dissipative flows obtainable in the laboratory, in simplified numerical atmospheric circulation models and in the planets of our solar system. The equilibration of such instabilities is also of great importance in understanding the structure and energetics of the observable circulation of atmospheres and oceans. Various ideas have been proposed concerning the ways in which baroclinic and barotropic instabilities grow to a large amplitude and saturate whilst also modifying their background flow and environment. This remains an area that continues to challenge theoreticians and observers, though some progress has been made. The notion that such instabilities may act under some conditions to adjust the background flow towards a critical state is explored here in the context of both laboratory systems and planetary atmospheres. Evidence for such adjustment processes is found relating to baroclinic instabilities under a range of conditions where the efficiency of eddy and zonal-mean heat transport may mutually compensate in maintaining a nearly invariant thermal structure in the zonal mean. In other systems, barotropic instabilities may efficiently mix potential vorticity to result in a flow configuration that is found to approach a marginally unstable state with respect to Arnol'd's second stability theorem. We discuss the implications of these findings and identify some outstanding open questions.
Investigating the semiannual oscillation on Mars using data assimilation
Icarus Elsevier 333 (2019) 404-414 )
Abstract:A Martian semiannual oscillation (SAO), similar to that in the Earths tropical stratosphere, is evident in the Mars Analysis Correction Data Assimilation reanalysis dataset (MACDA) version 1.0, not only in the tropics, but also extending to higher latitudes. Unlike on Earth, the Martian SAO is found not always to reverse its zonal wind direction, but only manifests itself as a deceleration of the dominant wind at certain pressure levels and latitudes. Singular System Analysis (SSA) is further applied on the zonal-mean zonal wind in different latitude bands to reveal the characteristics of SAO phenomena at different latitudes. The second pair of principal components (PCs) is usually dominated by a SAO signal, though the SAO signal can be strong enough to manifest itself also in the first pair of PCs. An analysis of terms in the Transformed Eulerian Mean equation (TEM) is applied in the tropics to further elucidate the forcing processes driving the tendency of the zonal-mean zonal wind. The zonal-mean meridional advection is found to correlate strongly with the observed oscillations of zonal-mean zonal wind, and supplies the majority of the westward (retrograde) forcing in the SAO cycle. The forcing due to various non-zonal waves supplies forcing to the zonal-mean zonal wind that is nearly the opposite of the forcing due to meridional advection above ∼3 Pa altitude, but it also partly supports the SAO between 40 Pa and 3 Pa. Some distinctive features occurring during the period of the Mars year (MY) 25 global-scale dust storm (GDS) are also notable in our diagnostic results with substantially stronger values of eastward and westward momentum in the second half of MY 25 and stronger forcing due to vertical advection, transient waves and thermal tides
Characterizing regimes of atmospheric circulation in terms of their global superrotation
Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences American Meteorological Society 78:4 (2021) 1245-1258