Triton's surface-atmosphere energy balance

John A. Stansberry, Roger Yelle, Jonathan I. Lunine, Alfred S. McEwen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

15 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

We explore the energetics of Triton's surface-atmosphere system using a model that includes the turbulent transfer of sensible heat as well as insolation, reradiation, and latent heat transport. The model relies on a 1° by 1° resolution hemispheric bolometric albedo map of Triton for determining the atmospheric temperature, the N2 frost emissivity, and the temperatures of unfrosted portions of the surface consistent with a frost temperature of ≅38 K. For a physically plausible range of heat transfer coefficients, we find that the atmospheric temperature roughly 1 km above the surface is approximately 1 to 3 K hotter than the surface. Atmospheric temperatures of 48 K suggested by early analysis of radio occultation data cannot be obtained for plausible values of the heat transfer coefficients. Our calculations indicate that Triton's N2 frosts must have an emissivity well below unity in order to have a temperature of ≅38 K, consistent with previous results. We also find that convection over small hot spots does not significantly cool them off, so they may be able to act as continous sources of buoyancy for convective plumes, but have not explored whether the convection is vigorous enough to entrain particulate matter thereby forming a dust devil. Our elevated atmospheric temperatures make geyser driven plumes with initial upward velocities ≤10 m s-1 stagnate in the lower atmosphere. These "wimpy" plumes provide a possible explanation for Triton's "wind streaks.".

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)242-260
Number of pages19
JournalIcarus
Volume99
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 1992

Fingerprint

atmospheric temperature
energy balance
air temperature
plumes
atmospheres
frost
atmosphere
plume
emissivity
heat transfer coefficients
heat
heat transfer
convection
dust devil
geyser
radio occultation
insolation
lower atmosphere
energy
temperature

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics

Cite this

Triton's surface-atmosphere energy balance. / Stansberry, John A.; Yelle, Roger; Lunine, Jonathan I.; McEwen, Alfred S.

In: Icarus, Vol. 99, No. 2, 1992, p. 242-260.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Stansberry, John A. ; Yelle, Roger ; Lunine, Jonathan I. ; McEwen, Alfred S. / Triton's surface-atmosphere energy balance. In: Icarus. 1992 ; Vol. 99, No. 2. pp. 242-260.
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