The gravitational signature of internal flows in giant planets: Comparing the thermal wind approach with barotropic potential-surface methods

Y. Kaspi, J. E. Davighi, E. Galanti, William B. Hubbard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

15 Scopus citations

Abstract

The upcoming Juno and Cassini gravity measurements of Jupiter and Saturn, respectively, will allow probing the internal dynamics of these planets through accurate analysis of their gravity spectra. To date, two general approaches have been suggested for relating the flow velocities and gravity fields. In the first, barotropic potential surface models, which naturally take into account the oblateness of the planet, are used to calculate the gravity field. However, barotropicity restricts the flows to be constant along cylinders parallel to the rotation axis. The second approach, calculated in the reference frame of the rotating planet, assumes that due to the large scale and rapid rotation of these planets, the winds are to leading order in geostrophic balance. Therefore, thermal wind balance relates the wind shear to the density gradients. While this approach can take into account any internal flow structure, it is limited to only calculating the dynamical gravity contributions, and has traditionally assumed spherical symmetry. This study comes to relate the two approaches both from a theoretical perspective, showing that they are analytically identical in the barotropic limit, and numerically, through systematically comparing the different model solutions for the gravity harmonics. For the barotropic potential surface models we employ two independent solution methods - the potential-theory and Maclaurin spheroid methods. We find that despite the sphericity assumption, in the barotropic limit the thermal wind solutions match well the barotropic oblate potential-surface solutions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)170-181
Number of pages12
JournalIcarus
Volume276
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 15 2016

Keywords

  • Atmosphere
  • Atmospheres
  • Dynamics
  • Interior
  • Jupiter
  • Jupiter

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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