The Cassini Imaging Science Subsystem has observed Titan for ∼1/4 Titan year, and we report here the first evidence of seasonal shifts in preferred locations of tropospheric methane clouds. South-polar convective cloud activity, common in late southern summer, has become rare. North-polar and northern mid-latitude clouds appeared during the approach to the northern spring equinox in August 2009. Recent observations have shown extensive cloud systems at low latitudes. In contrast, southern mid-latitude and subtropical clouds have appeared sporadically throughout the mission, exhibiting little seasonality to date. These differences in behavior suggest that Titan's clouds, and thus its general circulation, are influenced by both the rapid temperature response of a low-thermal-inertia surface and the much longer radiative timescale of Titan's cold thick troposphere. North-polar clouds are often seen near lakes and seas, suggesting that local increases in methane concentration and/or lifting generated by surface roughness gradients may promote cloud formation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)