Motion in the interiors and atmospheres of Jupiter and Saturn: scale analysis, anelastic equations, barotropic stability criterion

Andrew P. Ingersoll, David Pollard

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164 Scopus citations


If Jupiter's and Saturn's fluid interiors were inviscid and adiabatic, any steady zonal motion would take the form of differentially rotating cylinders concentric about the planetary axis of rotation. B. A. Smith et al. [Science 215, 504-537 (1982)] showed that Saturn's observed zonal wind profile extends a significant distance below cloud base. Further extension into the interior occurs if the values of the eddy viscosity and superadiabaticity are small. We estimate these values using a scaling analysis of deep convection in the presence of differential rotation. The differential rotation inhibits the convection and reduces the effective eddy viscosity. Viscous dissipation of zonal mean kinetic energy is then within the bounds set by the internal heat source. The differential rotation increases the superadiabaticity, but not so much as to eliminate the cylindrical structure of the flow. Very large departures from adiabaticity, necessary for decoupling the atmosphere and interior, do not occur. Using our scaling analysis we develop the anelastic equations that describe motions in Jupiter's and Saturn's interiors. A simple problem is solved, that of an adiabatic fluid with a steady zonal wind varying as a function of cylindrical radius. Low zonal wavenumber perturbations are two dimensional (independent of the axial coordinate) and obey a modified barotropic stability equation. The parameter analogous to β is negative and is three to four times larger than the β for thin atmospheres. Jupiter's and Saturn's observed zonal wind profiles are close to marginal stability according to this deep sphere criterion, but are several times supercritical according to the thin atmosphere criterion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)62-80
Number of pages19
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 1982

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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