Baroclinic instabilities in Jupiter's zonal flow

Peter J. Gierasch, Andrew P. Ingersoll, David Pollard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


The baroclinic stability of Jupiter's zonal flow is investigated using a model consisting of two continuously stratified fluid layers. The upper layer, containing a zonal shear flow and representing the Jovian cloudy regions above p ∼ 5 bars, is the same as Eady's (1949) model for the Earth. The lower layer has a relatively large but finite depth with a quiescent basic state, representing the deep Jovian fluid bulk below p ∼ 5 bars. Due to the presence of the lower layer, the linearized non-dimensional growth rates are drastically reduced from the O(1) growth rates of the original Early model. Only very long wavelengths relative to the upper fluid's radius of deformation L1 are unstable. Eddy transports of heat are also reduced relative to estimates based on scaling arguments alone. Since the hydrostatic approximation for the lower-layer perturbation breaks down at great depths, a second model is presented in which energy propagates downward in an infinitely deep lower fluid obeying the full linearized fluid equations. In this model, the growth rates are again very small, but now all wavelengths are unstable with maximum growth rates occurring for wavelengths O(1) relative to L1. These results illustrate the importance for the upper-layer meteorology of the interface boundary condition with the lower fluid, which is radically different from the rigid lower boundary of the Earth's troposphere.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)205-212
Number of pages8
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 1979

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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