There is something strange going on with temperatures on Jupiter, according to forty years of research

There is something strange going on with temperatures on Jupiter, according to forty years of research

The study reveals a mysterious connection between temperature fluctuations that seem connected in regions thousands of miles apart. Anyone ideas?

For at least four decades, researchers have studied temperatures in the upper layer of Jupiter’s atmosphere, called the troposphere. This is the layer of air in which the “weather” occurs and where the distinctive colored striped cloud bands appear. After 40 years, the team makes a curious discovery. For example, they found highly unexpected patterns in the way the temperatures of these cloud bands change over time.

Jupiter’s troposphere has a lot in common with Earth’s. Clouds and storms also form in Jupiter’s troposphere. To understand the local weather on the gas giant, scientists study certain characteristics, such as winds, pressure, humidity, and, of course, temperature. We know little about this from previous missions, including the uncrewed Pioneer 10 and 11 spacecraft that visited Jupiter in the 1970s. For example, it is known that lower temperatures can generally be associated with lighter, whiter areas, while darker brown bands are warmer.

These infrared images of Jupiter were obtained in 2016 thanks to the European Space Agency’s Very Large Telescope. The colors represent temperatures and cloudiness: areas in blue are cool and cloudy, while areas in orange are warmer and cloudless. Photo: ESO/LN Fletcher

To date, however, it remains unclear how temperatures vary in Jupiter’s troposphere in the long term. But groundbreaking new research from 40 years ago now greatly expands our knowledge of it. In the study published in natural astronomyThe team examined the bright infrared glow from warmer regions of the atmosphere and then measured the temperature above Jupiter’s colorful cloud cover. The researchers collected this data at regular intervals, each lasting 12 Earth years.

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One of the main findings of this study is that temperatures on Jupiter rise and fall periodically. It is similar to a cycle, although it cannot be related to the seasons or other cycles known to scientists. Unlike Earth, where distinct seasons occur due to its tilt of 23.5 degrees, Jupiter has no seasons, as its axis is tilted only about 3 degrees. For this reason, the researchers did not expect temperatures on Jupiter to vary so uniformly.

temperature changes
But even more surprising was the discovery of a mysterious temperature relationship between regions thousands of miles apart. “That’s the weirdest thing about it,” says researcher Glenn Orton. “We found a correlation between how temperatures differ at very distant latitudes.” While temperatures increased at specific latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere, temperatures decreased at the same latitudes in the Southern Hemisphere. Orton continues, “This is similar to a terrestrial phenomenon.” “Weather and climate patterns in one region can have a marked effect on the Earth on weather elsewhere.”

The next challenge is to find out what exactly causes the detected and apparently synchronous cyclical changes on Jupiter. For now, the researchers are still in the dark, though they have little doubt. For example, they discovered that, in the stratosphere, the temperature rises and also drops periodically in an exact opposite pattern to that of the troposphere. This indicates that changes in the stratosphere cause changes in the troposphere and vice versa. However, more research is needed to fully understand this. “Now we’ve solved one part of the puzzle, which is that the atmosphere has natural cycles,” researcher Lee Fletcher said. “To understand what drives these patterns and why they occur on specific timescales, we need to look above and below the cloud layers.”

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The study is an important step toward better understanding what drives the weather on the largest planet in our solar system. Ultimately, the researchers hope to be able to predict local weather on Jupiter. “Measuring long-term temperature changes and cycles is essential for this,” says Fletcher. We now hope to discover cause and effect in Jupiter’s atmosphere. We may then be able to apply what we learn on Jupiter to other giant planets to see if similar patterns emerge there.”

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