Dynamics of giant planet atmospheres

Andy Ingersoll
California Institute of Technology

Multiple zonal jets and stable vortices in shear are two of the most striking dynamical features of giant planet atmospheres. Other features include: mergers and oscillations of the vortices, up-gradient momentum transfer, equatorial super-rotation, and moist convection concentrated in the cyclonic shear zones. Ignorance about vertical structure has led to a hierarchy of models, starting with one-layer models of flow in an upper “weather layer,” which may or may not be resting on a moving abyssal fluid. The models capture the inverse cascade of energy from eddies to zonal jets, but they differ on where the eddies get their energy. Stable vortices form spontaneously from unstable shear flows, but no model to date has produced both stable vortices and multiple zonal jets in the same inverse cascade.

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