Curious weather on Jupiter

From NASA’s APOD:

See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download  the highest resolution version available.

Dark Belt Reappearing on Jupiter
Credit: NASA’s JPL, U. Oxford, UC Berkeley, Gemini Obs. (North), USC Philippines

Explanation: Why are planet-circling clouds disappearing and reappearing on Jupiter? Although the ultimate cause remains unknown, planetary meteorologists are beginning to better understand what is happening. Earlier this year, unexpectedly, Jupiter’s dark Southern Equatorial Belt (SEB) disappeared.

The changes were first noted by amateurs dedicated to watching Jupiter full time. The South Equatorial Band has been seen to change colors before, although the change has never been recorded in such detail. Detailed professional observations revealed that high-flying light-colored ammonia-based clouds formed over the planet-circling dark belt.

Now those light clouds are dissipating, again unveiling the lower dark clouds. Pictured above two weeks ago, far infrared images — depicted in false-color red — show a powerful storm system active above the returning dark belt. Continued observations of Jupiter’s current cloud opera, and our understanding of it, is sure to continue.

h/t to Dr. Leif Svalgaard

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42 Responses to Curious weather on Jupiter

  1. wayne Job says:

    Obviously climate disruption, too much CO2 on Jupiter.

  2. Mike McMillan says:

    El Nino

  3. Martin Brumby says:

    Not only obviously caused by CO2 but much worse than we thought.

  4. h.oldeboom says:

    Regarding these phenomena, could there be a connection with the theory of Dr. Velikovsky about the origin of Venus?

  5. Dave F says:

    Obviously Jupiter has a system for radiating heat to space, and this is part of it. As long as Jupiter really is a gas giant, and not iron at the core (…) it is likely that the gases oscillate between dominant phases in the atmosphere, and in this particular band the lower darker clouds and higher lighter clouds are just cycles in the pattern. And it’s worse than we thought.

    Oh… no need for that? Wrong planet? Well, can we find a way to sneak it in anyway? ;-D

  6. Wayne Richards says:

    Weather on Jupiter is not climate. Or is it the other way around?

  7. steveta_uk says:

    Not a storm at all – looks more like Nessie to me!

    P.S. h.oldeboom – no

  8. David Apogee says:

    Sounds like Jupiter has volcanic or convection activity spewing ammonia and other gasses in to its upper atmosphere, located in the SEB region. This could explain the variations in the mysterious great red spot and other vortices located in the SEB.

  9. vukcevic says:

    With the heliosphere’s strength weakening, Jupiter’s magnetosphere (the largest in the solar system) will be expanding, this could have a considerable effect on the Jupiter’s clouds, atmosphere and ionosphere.

  10. Erik says:

    Hope the volcano comment was a joke, considering the lack of a surface. Jupiter has always been fascinating because it doesn’t make sense. How can something so massive only be a coalescing of a bunch of gases with a metallic hydrogen (and according to Arthur C. Clarke a diamond inside that) core. It’s a fascinating n-body problem with thermodynamic involvement.

  11. Bruce Armour says:

    P.S. h.oldeboom – yes

    See “Jove’s Thunderbolts” at http://www.varchive.org/bdb/thunderbolts.htm
    Einstein famously took the incorrect position that Jupiter was not electrically charged. That didn’t work out very well for him. Dr. V. won the bet.

  12. dfbaskwill says:

    When will the pleas commence to send funds from industrialized nations to the poor Saturnians? Fair is fair.

  13. UK Sceptic says:

    It’s the Southern Equatorial Belt Oscillation, innit?

  14. Enneagram says:

    vukcevic says:
    November 30, 2010 at 3:10 am
    As usual, our friend Vukcevic is right. Occam´s Razor: “the simplest explanation is more likely the correct one”. :
    With the heliosphere’s strength weakening, Jupiter’s magnetosphere (the largest in the solar system) will be expanding
    Period!.

  15. Robert Morris says:

    vukcevic says:
    November 30, 2010 at 3:10 am

    I reckon this is the nub of it; its a megnetosphere response effect.

  16. J.Hansford says:

    Hmm… Send more satellites….:-)

  17. Fletch says:

    Awww come on guys! , it’s so simple. Maybe you all need a refresher course…Hey! It’s all ball bearings these days.

  18. Carla says:

    vukcevic says:
    November 30, 2010 at 3:10 am
    With the heliosphere’s strength weakening, Jupiter’s magnetosphere (the largest in the solar system) will be expanding, this could have a considerable effect on the Jupiter’s clouds, atmosphere and ionosphere.
    ~
    I don’t know about all that Vuks, but this puts some perspective on it.

    Big Mystery: Jupiter Loses a Stripe
    May 20, 2010:
    In a development that has transformed the appearance of the solar system’s largest planet, one of Jupiter’s two main cloud belts has completely disappeared.
    ..This isn’t the first time the SEB has faded out.

    “The SEB fades at irregular intervals, most recently in 1973-75, 1989-90, 1993, 2007, 2010,” says John Rogers, director of the British Astronomical Association’s Jupiter Section. “The 2007 fading was terminated rather early, but in the other years the SEB was almost absent, as at present.”

    The return of the SEB can be dramatic.
    “We can look forward to a spectacular outburst of storms and vortices when the ‘SEB Revival’ begins,” says Rogers. “It always begins at a single point, and a disturbance spreads out rapidly around the planet from there, often becoming spectacular even for amateurs eyeballing the planet through medium-sized telescopes. However we can’t predict when or where it will start. On historical precedent it could be any time in the next 2 years. We hope it will be in the next few months so that everyone can get a good view. .
    http://science.nasa.gov/media/medialibrary/2010/05/19/loststripe_strip.jpg
    http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2010/20may_loststripe/

  19. vukcevic says:
    November 30, 2010 at 3:10 am
    With the heliosphere’s strength weakening, Jupiter’s magnetosphere (the largest in the solar system) will be expanding, this could have a considerable effect on the Jupiter’s clouds, atmosphere and ionosphere.
    The heliospheric ‘strength’ is picking up again, and as for Earth, the size of the magnetosphere does not have any significant effect on the clouds and atmospheric circulation. Jupiter’s magnetosphere is dominated by plasma from Io and Europa and from the rapidly rotating planet itself and not by the solar wind [although some small effect probably occurs, especially on the night side].

  20. Ken Roberts says:

    Total lack of adult CO2; ammonia smothering baby molecules as they try to form.

  21. Mac the Knife says:

    Carla,

    Thanks for the ‘backgrounder’ and the links! Tigers may not be able to change their stripes… but Jupiter can! These disturbances appear similar to ‘standing waves’ in marine estuaries where tidal flow reversals set up the proper conditions.

  22. Dave Springer says:

    Those eruptions in the photo detail have a curiously magnetic field line shape to them.

  23. Jim G says:

    Fact is, we know even less about Jovian climate/weather than we do about good old planet Earth, if that is possible, yet just like here, everyone has a theory. I’ll bet on the diamond in the center. C+Heat+Pressure=Diamonds.

  24. PaulH says:

    The changes were first noted by amateurs dedicated to watching Jupiter full time.

    If it wasn’t observed by top UN scientists and PhDs then it really didn’t happened. ;->

  25. Enneagram says:

    Io orbits close in to Jupiter, so intense electromagnetic radiation bombards its surface, removing approximately one ton per second in gases and other materials. Io acts like an electrical generator as it travels through Jupiter’s plasmasphere, inducing over 400,000 volts across its diameter at more than three million amperes. That tremendous current flows across its magnetic field into the electric environment of Jupiter.

    The plumes seen erupting from Io are the result of cathode arcs, electrically etching the surface and blasting sulfur dioxide “snow” up to 150 kilometers into space.
    http://www.thunderbolts.info/tpod/00current.htm

  26. DrMoom says:

    [snip - policy we aren't going to open religious discussions on this thread ~mod]

  27. Enneagram says:
    November 30, 2010 at 12:05 pm
    The plumes seen erupting from Io are the result of cathode arcs, electrically etching the surface and blasting sulfur dioxide “snow” up to 150 kilometers into space.
    No, they are caused by tidal ‘kneading’ of Io’s interior, so plain old volcanism.

  28. vukcevic says:

    Leif Svalgaard says: November 30, 2010 at 8:06 am
    …………
    The strength of its (Jupiter’s) magnetic field combined with the weakness of the solar wind at Jupiter produces a magnetosphere that is enormous. The sun could easily fit inside the magnetosphere. Its tail is thought to extend past Saturn, over 5 AU away. If Jupiter’s magnetosphere could be seen from Earth it would appear to be larger than the Earth’s moon.
    http://www-ssc.igpp.ucla.edu/ssc/tutorial/planet_magnetospheres.html

  29. Enneagram says:

    Leif Svalgaard says:
    November 30, 2010 at 12:20 pm
    Didn’t know some Italian guys were preparing pasta up there :-)

  30. jorgekafkazar says:

    An astronomer friend of mine used to speculate that there were low-level nuclear reactions of some sort taking place within Jupiter.

  31. Gerry says:

    They’re not buying enough Jovian Carbon Credit Coupons for their SUVs….

  32. George E. Smith says:

    Well I profess to be a Jupiter ignoramus; but the place has always fascinated me. I’m totally amazed that anyone can actually ever see changes happen up there. I’m hoping that nobody ever claims that we can learn anything about earth’s climate by studying Jupiter; but I’m all for studying Jupiter for just the idle curiosity.

    Astronomical research (and researchers) have my undying respect; their laboratorise are way the hell and gone out there; where it is hard for them to twiddle the knobs; so they really have to be ingenious to actually learn anything at all. A change from those scientists with labs that every kind of spectrometer or other ometer known to man; yet still can’t get to the bottom of much useful stuff. Hey some of those laboratories aren’t even there anymore, and astronomers are still able to twiddle knobs that used to be there; that’s insane !

  33. Geoff Sharp says:

    Talking about weather….our solar induced run of cloud and record rain in Melbourne is not letting me observe Jupiter lately. It would be a shame to miss out on the Jupiter storm activity that is expected to replenish the SEB, but we will probably continue in this fashion all summer.

    But the dams should be full by the end of summer.

  34. vukcevic says:
    November 30, 2010 at 12:36 pm
    The strength of its (Jupiter’s) magnetic field combined with the weakness of the solar wind at Jupiter produces a magnetosphere that is enormous.
    So? the point is that Jupiter controls the magnetosphere, and that the magnetosphere does not control Jupiter’s atmosphere.

  35. kuhnkat says:

    Geoff Sharp,

    You must be wrong. The BOM was projecting worsening droughts for you!!

  36. vukcevic says:
    November 30, 2010 at 12:36 pm
    The strength of its (Jupiter’s) magnetic field combined with the weakness of the solar wind at Jupiter produces a magnetosphere that is enormous.
    And seen from the sun, the enormous magnetosphere of Jupiter occupies a whopping 1/50,000 of the sky.

  37. Robert Morris says:

    Leif Svalgaard says:
    November 30, 2010 at 8:10 pm

    And seen from the sun, the enormous magnetosphere of Jupiter occupies a whopping 1/50,000 of the sky.

    And seen from Alpha Centauri it would be invisible, but the issue isn’t the Sun’s perspective its the interplay between Heliosphere and Jovian Magnetosphere and the possibly linked observed variations in the Jovian atmosphere.

  38. Robert Morris says:
    December 1, 2010 at 2:05 am
    the issue isn’t the Sun’s perspective its the interplay between Heliosphere and Jovian Magnetosphere and the possibly linked observed variations in the Jovian atmosphere.
    No such links have been documented, and variations [if any] would actually be expected to diminish with the size of the Jovian Magnetosphere.

  39. James F. Evans says:

    Enneagram wrote:

    “The plumes seen erupting from Io are the result of cathode arcs, electrically etching the surface and blasting sulfur dioxide “snow” up to 150 kilometers into space.”

    Dr. Svalgaard responded: “No, they are caused by tidal ‘kneading’ of Io’s interior, so plain old volcanism.”

    But volcanism may not be the whole story.

    It is well accepted in astrophysical community that Jupiter and its moon Io are connected by a magnetic flux tube.

    Wikipedia entry for Flux tube:

    “A flux tube is a generally tube-like (cylindrical) region of space containing a magnetic field, such that the field at the side surfaces is parallel to those surfaces. Both the cross-sectional area of the tube and the field contained may vary along the length of the tube, but the magnetic flux is always constant.

    As used in astrophysics, a flux tube generally has a larger magnetic field and other properties that differ from the surrounding space. They are commonly found around stars, including the Sun, which has many flux tubes of around 300 km diameter. Sunspots are also associated with larger flux tubes of 2500 km diameter. Some planets also have flux tubes. A well-known example is the flux tube between Jupiter and its moon Io.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flux_tube

    Here is a peer-reviewed paper published in Astrophysics and Space Science (1988), which supports the proposition that Io’s volcanoes may be at least partially an electromagnetic plasma mechanism.

    FILAMENTATION OF VOLCANIC PLUMES ON THE JOVIAN
    SATELLITE IO
    ANTHONY L. PERATT
    Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, New Mexico, U.S.A.
    and
    A. J. DESSLER
    Department of Space Physics and Astronomy, Rice University, Houston, Texas, U.S.A.

    “Abstract. Volcanic plumes on the Jovian satellite Io may be a visible manifestation of a plasma-arc discharge phenomenon. The amount of power in the plasma arc ( ~ 1011 W) is not enough to account for all the energy dissipated by the volcanoes. However, once a volcano is initiated by tidal and geologic processes, the dynamics of the volcanic plumes can be influenced by the plasma arcs. As initially pointed out by Gold (1979), plasma arcs are expected because of ~ 10 6 A currents and 400 kV potentials generated by the flow past Io of a torus of relatively dense magnetospheric plasma. We utilize our experience with laboratory plasma arcs to investigate the plume dynamics. The filamentation in the plume of the volcano Prometheus and its cross sectional shape is quantitatively consistent with theories developed from laboratory observation.”

    http://www.springerlink.com/content/g1k873q735556q02/

    The above paper followed a peer-reviewed paper by well known astrophysicist Thomas Gold published in Science (1979):

    Abstract: “The outbursts seen on Jupiter’s satellite Io have been described as volcanic eruptions. They may instead be the result of large electric currents flowing through hot spots on Io and causing evaporation of surface materials. A strictly periodic behavior would then be expected.”

    http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/1979Sci…206.1071G

    Another paper, Io’s Interaction With the Jovian Magnetosphere, discusses the Jupiter — Io electro-magnetic connection:

    “lo had already called attention to itself by controlling decametric wavelength radio emissions. Previous attempts to explain this control assumed that the movement of lo, an object with high electrical conductance, through the Jovian magnetic field leads to falling electrical potential, particle acceleration, and a field-aligned current system [magnetic flux tube] coupling lo to the Jovian ionosphere.”

    “The force generated by the electrodynamic interaction is thought to accelerate lo in its orbital motion and slow the rotation of the Jovian ionosphere. The magnetic flux tube that threads through lo thus plays a critical role in the coupling of lo and Jupiter. Since lo’s orbital motion is not synchronous with Jupiter’s spin, the lo flux tube slips with respect to Jupiter and/or lo. Such slippage may result in an electric field parallel to the Jovian magnetic field that accelerates charged particles along the field, as occurs in the auroral regions on Earth.”

    http://www-ssc.igpp.ucla.edu/personnel/russell/papers/Io_Jovian/

    And, another paper, Electron beams and ion composition measured at Io and in its torus:

    “Intense, magnetic field-aligned, bidirectional, energetic (>15 kiloelectron volts) electron beams were discovered by the Galileo energetic particles detector during the flyby of Io. These beams can carry sufficient energy flux into Jupiter’s atmosphere to produce a visible aurora at the footprint of the magnetic flux tube connecting Io to Jupiter. Composition measurements through the torus showed that the spatial distributions of protons, oxygen, and sulfur are different, with sulfur being the dominant energetic (> approximately 10 kiloelectron volts per nucleon) ion at closest approach.”

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8832885

    And a recent, 2009, paper, Generation of parallel electric fields in the Jupiter―Io torus wake region:

    Abstract (partial): “Infrared and ultraviolet images have established that auroral emissions at Jupiter caused by the electromagnetic interaction with Io not only produce a bright spot, but an emission trail that extends in longitude from Io’s magnetic footprint. Electron acceleration that produces the bright spot is believed to be dominated by Alfvén waves whereas we argue that the trail or wake aurora results from quasi-static parallel electric fields associated with large-scale, field-aligned currents between the Io torus and Jupiter’s ionosphere. These currents ultimately transfer angular momentum from Jupiter to the Io torus. We examine the generation and the impact of the quasi-static parallel electric fields in the Io trail aurora. A critical component to our analysis is a current-voltage relation that accounts for the low-density plasma along the magnetic flux tubes that connect the Io torus and Jupiter…”

    http://cat.inist.fr/?aModele=afficheN&cpsidt=21709421

    So, we have several papers that discuss the electromagnetic connection between Io and Jupiter via magnetic flux tubes (sometimes called Birkeland currents) which are an electromagnetic structure and two papers which specifically discuss Io’s volcanoes and the possible electromagnetic, free electrons & ions, plasma mechanism of those volcanoes.

  40. Robert Morris says:

    Leif Svalgaard says:
    December 1, 2010 at 8:33 pm

    No such links have been documented, and variations [if any] would actually be expected to diminish with the size of the Jovian Magnetosphere.

    I’m going to ask you to substantiate your expectation, because it would seem miraculous to me that a reduction in solar wind would result in the Jovian Magnetosphere reducing in size rather than getting larger.

    As you will be aware the magnetosphere is generated within Jupiter and is then “spread” back from the planet by the solar wind, so that any reduction in said wind will cause the magnetosphere to spread LESS. So what effect this might have on charged paticles within the Jovian atmosphere (perhaps related to plasma flowing along the flux tubes between planet and satellites) is as yet an unknown.

    However, if you can produce documentation then perhaps you might be right but I’m going to sit here and bet that if you provide anything at all it will at best be tangential to your expectation.

  41. Carla says:

    Robert Morris says:
    December 2, 2010 at 2:24 am
    Leif Svalgaard says:
    December 1, 2010 at 8:33 pm

    Dr. S. says, No such links have been documented, and variations [if any] would actually be expected to diminish with the size of the Jovian Magnetosphere.

    Robert Morris says, I’m going to ask you to substantiate your expectation, because it would seem miraculous to me that a reduction in solar wind would result in the Jovian Magnetosphere reducing in size rather than getting larger

    Carla says, Robert if you reduce solar output into the heliospheric bubble, system wide, you reduce the ionization and heating rates of the particles that get trapped inbetween those spread out (cause the solar wind is blown them) field lines.
    Now you have fewer energetic particles in your lines then what? Stronger or weaker.

    Like wise less ionazition in the interstellar medium..

    James Evans, good stuff and thank you for the tune up. Blew my socks off that I wasn’t aware of a flux tube connection between IO and Jupe. How did I miss that?

    Kinda decided both camps, classical as well as radical have good as well as evil, a positve and a negative however you want it. hahahaha Black Oak Arkansas.

  42. phlogiston says:

    What drives the atmospheric patterns in Jupiter’s atmosphere? For the magnetic people – its magnetism. For the electric crowd – its electricity. One of my favourite topics is nonlinear pattern formation – so I can inevitably plug non-equilibrium pattern formation of course. For example – think about the red spot on Jupiter. Now watch the (often posted here – half of the time by me) Texan University corn starch video:

    About 1/3 – 1/3 way through the video they blow a hole on the surface of the liquid starch and it persists in a strange way. This looks like an analogy of the Jupiter red spot. As for appearing and disappearing stripes – there a plenty of other nonlinear pattern experimental models that show similar things – e.g. platinum catalysis of CO oxidation.

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