The temperature of Europa's subsurface water ocean

H. J. Melosh, A. G. Ekholm, Adam Showman, R. D. Lorenz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

51 Scopus citations

Abstract

A 100 km deep liquid water ocean probably underlies the icy exterior of Jupiter's satellite Europa. The long-term persistence of a liquid ocean beneath an ice shell presents a thermal conundrum: Is the temperature of the ocean equal to the freezing point of water at the bottom of the ice shell, or is it equal to the somewhat warmer temperature at which water attains its maximum density? We argue that most of the ocean is at the temperature of maximum density and that the bulk of the vigorously convecting ocean is separated from the bottom of the ice shell by a thin "stratosphere" of stably stratified water which is at the freezing point, and therefore buoyant. If Europa's subsurface water ocean is warm, it could explain the widespread geologic evidence for apparent melt-through events observed on its surface and may constrain the overall age of its surface.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)498-502
Number of pages5
JournalIcarus
Volume168
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2004

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Keywords

  • Europa
  • Interiors
  • Thermal history

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics

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