Letter

Nature 451, 437-440 (24 January 2008) | doi:10.1038/nature06533; Received 30 July 2007; Accepted 29 November 2007

There is a Corrigendum (21 February 2008) associated with this document.

Depth of a strong jovian jet from a planetary-scale disturbance driven by storms

A. Sánchez-Lavega1, G. S. Orton2, R. Hueso1, E. García-Melendo3, S. Pérez-Hoyos1, A. Simon-Miller4, J. F. Rojas5, J. M. Gómez3, P. Yanamandra-Fisher2, L. Fletcher6, J. Joels7, J. Kemerer8, J. Hora9, E. Karkoschka10, I. de Pater11, M. H. Wong11, P. S. Marcus12, N. Pinilla-Alonso13, F. Carvalho14, C. Go15, D. Parker16, M. Salway17, M. Valimberti18, A. Wesley19 & Z. Pujic20

  1. Departamento de Física Aplicada I, ETS Ingenieros, Universidad del País Vasco, Alameda Urquijo s/n, 48013 Bilbao, Spain
  2. MS 169-237, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, 4800 Oak Grove Drive, Pasadena, California 91109, USA
  3. Esteve Duran Observatory Foundation, 085330 Seva, Spain
  4. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Code 693, 8800 Greenbelt Road, Greenbelt, Maryland 2077, USA
  5. Departamento de Física Aplicada I, EUITI, Universidad País Vasco, Plaza Casilla s/n, 48013 Bilbao, Spain
  6. Atmospheric, Oceanic and Planetary Physics, Department of Physics, Clarendon Laboratory, University of Oxford, Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3PU, UK
  7. Principia College, 1 Maybeck Place, Elsah, Illinois 62028, USA
  8. California State Polytechnic University, 3801 West Temple Street, Pomona, California 91768, USA
  9. Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, 60 Garden Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA
  10. University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona 85721, USA
  11. Astronomy Department,
  12. Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720-3411, USA
  13. Telescopio Nazionale Galileo Galilei (TNG), Roque de Los Muchachos Astronomical Observatory, 38700 Santa Cruz de La Palma, Spain
  14. Centro de Estudos do Universo (CEU), 17380-000 Brotas, Brazil
  15. Physics Department, University of San Carlos, Nasipit, Talamban, 6000 Cebu City, Philippines
  16. Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers (ALPO), 12911 Lerida Street, Coral Gables, Florida 33156, USA
  17. IceInSpace, PO Box 9127, Wyoming, New South Wales 2250, Australia
  18. Astronomical Society of Victoria, GPO Box 1059, Melbourne, Victoria 3001, Australia
  19. Mathematics and Computer Science, 82 Merryville Drive, Murrumbateman 2582, Australia
  20. 23 Attunga Street, Kingston 4114, Queensland, Australia

Correspondence to: A. Sánchez-Lavega1 Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to A.S.-L. (Email: agustin.sanchez@ehu.es).

The atmospheres of the gas giant planets (Jupiter and Saturn) contain jets that dominate the circulation at visible levels1, 2. The power source for these jets (solar radiation, internal heat, or both) and their vertical structure below the upper cloud are major open questions in the atmospheric circulation and meteorology of giant planets1, 2, 3. Several observations1 and in situ measurements4 found intense winds at a depth of 24 bar, and have been interpreted as supporting an internal heat source. This issue remains controversial5, in part because of effects from the local meteorology6. Here we report observations and modelling of two plumes in Jupiter's atmosphere that erupted at the same latitude as the strongest jet (23° N). The plumes reached a height of 30 km above the surrounding clouds, moved faster than any other feature (169 m s-1), and left in their wake a turbulent planetary-scale disturbance containing red aerosols. On the basis of dynamical modelling, we conclude that the data are consistent only with a wind that extends well below the level where solar radiation is deposited.