Seasonal changes in Titan's polar trace gas abundance observed by cassini

N.A. Teanby, P.G.J. Irwin, R. De Kok, C.A. Nixon

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32 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

We use a six-year data set (2004-2010) of mid-infrared spectra measured by Cassini's Composite InfraRed Spectrometer to search for seasonal variations in Titan's atmospheric temperature and composition. During most of Cassini's mission Titan's northern hemisphere has been in winter, with an intense stratospheric polar vortex highly enriched in trace gases, and a single south-to-north circulation cell. Following northern spring equinox in mid-2009, dramatic changes in atmospheric temperature and composition were expected, but until now the temporal coverage of polar latitudes has been too sparse to discern trends. Here, we show that during equinox and post-equinox periods, abundances of trace gases at both poles have begun to increase.We propose that increases in north polar trace gases are due to a seasonal reduction in gas depletion by horizontal mixing across the vortex boundary. A simultaneous south polar abundance increase suggests that Titan is now entering, or is about to enter, a transitional circulation regime with two branches, rather than the single branch circulation pattern previously observed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)L84-L89
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Volume724
Issue number1 PART 2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 20 Nov 2010
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Planets and satellites: atmospheres

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