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Titan's Atmospheric Dynamics and MeteorologyTitan, after Venus, is the second example of an atmosphere with a global cyclostrophic circulation in the solar system, but a circulation that has a strong seasonal modulation in the middle atmosphere. Direct measurement of Titan's winds, particularly observations tracking the Huygens probe at 10degS, indicate that the zonal winds are generally in the sense of the satellites rotation. They become cyclostrophic approx. 35 km above the surface and generally increase with altitude, with the exception of a sharp minimum centered near 75 km, where the wind velocity decreases to nearly zero. Zonal winds derived from the temperature field retrieved from Cassini measurements, using the thermal wind equation, indicate a strong winter circumpolar vortex, with maximum winds at mid northern latitudes of 190 ms-' near 300 km. Above this level, the vortex decays. Curiously, the zonal winds and temperatures are symmetric about a pole that is offset from the surface pole by approx.4 degrees. The cause of this is not well understood, but it may reflect the response of a cyclostrophic circulation to the offset between the equator, where the distance to the rotation axis is greatest, and the solar equator. The mean meridional circulation can be inferred from the temperature field and the meridional distribution of organic molecules and condensates and hazes. Both the warm temperatures in the north polar region near 400 km and the enhanced concentration of several organic molecules suggests subsidence there during winter and early spring. Stratospheric condensates are localized at high northern latitudes, with a sharp cut-off near 50degN. Titan's winter polar vortex appears to share many of the same characteristics of winter vortices on Earth-the ozone holes. Global mapping of temperatures, winds, and composition in he troposphere, by contrast, is incomplete. The few suitable discrete clouds that have bee found for tracking indicate smaller velocities than aloft, consistent with the Huygens measurements. At low latitudes the zonal winds near the surface appear not to be westward as on Earth, but eastward. Because the net zonal-mean time-averaged torq exerted by the surface on the atmosphere should vanish, this implies westward flow o part of the surface; the question is where. The latitude contrast in tropospheric temperatures, deduced from radio occultations at low, mid, and high latitudes, is small approx.5 K at the tropopause and approx.3 K at the surface.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Flasar, F. M.
(NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Greenbelt, MD, United States)
Baines, K. H.
(Jet Propulsion Lab., California Inst. of Tech. Pasadena, CA, United States)
Bird, M. K.
(Bonn Univ. Germany)
Tokano, T.
(Cologne Univ. Germany)
West, R. A.
(Jet Propulsion Lab., California Inst. of Tech. Pasadena, CA, United States)
Date Acquired
August 24, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 2008
Subject Category
Meteorology And Climatology
Meeting Information
The "Titan after Cassini-Huygnes" Symposium(Corpus Christi, TX)
Distribution Limits
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