Effects of the seasonal cycle on superrotation in planetary atmospheres
Mitchell, Jonathan L.
Vallis, Geoffrey K.
Potter, Samuel F.
American Astronomical Society
© 2014. The American Astronomical Society
The dynamics of dry atmospheric general circulation model simulations forced by seasonally varying Newtonian relaxation are explored over a wide range of two control parameters and are compared with the large-scale circulation of Earth, Mars, and Titan in their relevant parameter regimes. Of the parameters that govern the behavior of the system, the thermal Rossby number (Ro) has previously been found to be important in governing the spontaneous transition from an Earth-like climatology of winds to a superrotating one with prograde equatorial winds, in the absence of a seasonal cycle. This case is somewhat unrealistic as it applies only if the planet has zero obliquity or if surface thermal inertia is very large. While Venus has nearly vanishing obliquity, Earth, Mars, and Titan (Saturn) all have obliquities of ̃25° and varying degrees of seasonality due to their differing thermal inertias and orbital periods. Motivated by this, we introduce a time-dependent Newtonian cooling to drive a seasonal cycle using idealized model forcing, and we define a second control parameter that mimics non-dimensional thermal inertia of planetary surfaces. We then perform and analyze simulations across the parameter range bracketed by Earth-like and Titan-like regimes, assess the impact on the spontaneous transition to superrotation, and compare Earth, Mars, and Titan to the model simulations in the relevant parameter regime. We find that a large seasonal cycle (small thermal inertia) prevents model atmospheres with large thermal Rossby numbers from developing superrotation by the influences of (1) cross-equatorial momentum advection by the Hadley circulation and (2) hemispherically asymmetric zonal-mean zonal winds that suppress instabilities leading to equatorial momentum convergence. We also demonstrate that baroclinic instabilities must be sufficiently weak to allow superrotation to develop. In the relevant parameter regimes, our seasonal model simulations compare favorably to large-scale, seasonal phenomena observed on Earth and Mars. In the Titan-like regime the seasonal cycle in our model acts to prevent superrotation from developing, and it is necessary to increase the value of a third parameter - the atmospheric Newtonian cooling time - to achieve a superrotating climatology. © 2014. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.
Vol. 787, no.1