Titan's Meteorology Over the Cassini Mission: Evidence for Extensive Subsurface Methane Reservoirs

E. P. Turtle, J. E. Perry, J. M. Barbara, A. D. Del Genio, S. Rodriguez, S. Le Mouélic, C. Sotin, J. M. Lora, S. Faulk, P. Corlies, J. Kelland, S. M. MacKenzie, R. A. West, A. S. McEwen, J. I. Lunine, J. Pitesky, T. L. Ray, M. Roy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

16 Scopus citations

Abstract

Cassini observations of Titan's weather patterns over >13 years, almost half a Saturnian year, provide insight into seasonal circulation patterns and the methane cycle. The Imaging Science Subsystem and the Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer documented cloud locations, characteristics, morphologies, and behavior. Clouds were generally more prevalent in the summer hemisphere, but there were surprises in locations and timing of activity: Southern clouds were common at midlatitudes, northern clouds initially appeared much sooner than model predictions, and north polar summer convective systems did not appear before the mission ended. Differences from expectations constrain atmospheric circulation models, revealing factors that best match observations, including the roles of surface and subsurface reservoirs. The preference for clouds at mid-northern latitudes rather than near the pole is consistent with models that include widespread polar near-surface methane reservoirs in addition to the lakes and seas, suggesting a broader subsurface methane table is accessible to the atmosphere.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5320-5328
Number of pages9
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Volume45
Issue number11
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 16 2018

Keywords

  • Cassini
  • Titan
  • atmospheric modeling
  • clouds
  • methane cycle
  • seasonal change

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)

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    Turtle, E. P., Perry, J. E., Barbara, J. M., Del Genio, A. D., Rodriguez, S., Le Mouélic, S., Sotin, C., Lora, J. M., Faulk, S., Corlies, P., Kelland, J., MacKenzie, S. M., West, R. A., McEwen, A. S., Lunine, J. I., Pitesky, J., Ray, T. L., & Roy, M. (2018). Titan's Meteorology Over the Cassini Mission: Evidence for Extensive Subsurface Methane Reservoirs. Geophysical Research Letters, 45(11), 5320-5328. https://doi.org/10.1029/2018GL078170