Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

  • Letter
  • Published:

Proximate humid and dry regions in Jupiter's atmosphere indicate complex local meteorology


Models of Jupiter's formation and structure predict that its atmosphere is enriched in oxygen, relative to the Sun, and that consequently water clouds should be present globally near the 5-bar pressure level1,2. Past attempts to confirm these predictions have led to contradictory results3,4,5; in particular, the Galileo probe revealed a very dry atmosphere at the entry site, with no significant clouds at depths exceeding the 2-bar level6,7. Although the entry site was known to be relatively cloud-free, the contrast between the observed local dryness and the expected global wetness was surprising. Here we analyse near-infrared (around 5 µm) observations of Jupiter, a spectral region that can reveal the water vapour abundance and vertical cloud structure in the troposphere8. We find that humid and extremely dry regions exist in close proximity, and that some humid regions are spatially correlated with bright convective clouds extending from the deep water clouds to the visible atmosphere.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Buy this article

Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Figure 1: Comparison between the visible Solid State Imager (SSI) image, the 5-µm Near Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (NIMS) image, and results from the retrieval of water vapour and cloud opacity from the NIMS 5-µm spectra.
Figure 2: NIMS 5-µm spectra from a dry and a humid area.

Similar content being viewed by others


  1. Weidenschilling, S J. & Lewis, J. S. Atmospheric and cloud structure of the jovian planets. Icarus 20, 465–476 (1973).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  2. Atreya, S. K. et al. A comparison of the atmospheres of Jupiter and Saturn: deep atmospheric composition, cloud structure, vertical mixing, and origin. Planet. Space Sci. 47, 1243–1262 (1999).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  3. Drossart, P. & Encrenaz, T. The abundance of water on Jupiter from the Voyager IRIS data at 5 microns. Icarus 52, 483–491 (1982).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  4. Bjoraker, G., Larson, H. P. & Kunde, V. The abundance and distribution of water vapor in Jupiter's atmosphere. Astrophys. J. 311, 1058– 1072 (1986).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  5. Carlson, B. E., Lacis, A. A. & Rossow, W. B. The abundance and distribution of water vapor in the jovian troposphere as inferred from Voyager IRIS observations. Astrophys. J. 388, 648–668 (1992).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  6. Niemann, H. B. et al. The composition of the jovian atmosphere as determined by the Galileo probe mass spectrometer. J. Geophys. Res. 103, 22831–22845 (1998).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. Ragent, B. et al. The clouds on Jupiter: results on the Galileo Jupiter mission probe nephelometer experiment. J. Geophys. Res. 103 , 22891–22910 (1998).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  8. Larson, H. P., Fink, U., Treffers, R. & Gautier, T. N. Detection of water vapour on Jupiter. Astrophys. J. 197, L137–L140 (1975).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  9. Roos-Serote, M. et al. Analysis of Jupiter North Equatoral Belt hot spots in the 4–4 µm range from Galileo/near-infrared mapping spectrometer observations: measurements of cloud opacity, water and ammonia. J. Geophys. Res. 103, 23023–23041 (1998).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  10. Irwin, P. et al. Cloud structure and atmospheric composition of Jupiter retrieved from Galileo near-infrared mapping spectrometer real-time spectra. J. Geophys. Res. 103, 23001–23022 (1998).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  11. Seiff, A. et al. Thermal structure of Jupiter's atmosphere near the edge of a 5-µm hotspot in the north equatorial belt. J. Geophys. Res. 103, 22857–22890 ( 1998).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  12. Roos-Serote, M., Drossart, P., Encrenaz, T., Carlson, R. W. & Leader, F. Constraints on the tropospheric cloud structure of Jupiter from spectroscopy in the 5-µm region: a comparison between voyager/IRIS, Galileo/NIMS, and ISO/SWS spectra. Icarus 137, 315–340 ( 1999).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  13. Banfield, D. et al. Jupiter's cloud structure from Galileo imaging data. Icarus 135, 230–250 ( 1998).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  14. Gierasch, P. et al. Cloud structure near convective locations on Jupiter. Bull. Am. Astron. Soc. 31, 115 ( 1999).

    Google Scholar 

  15. Limaye, S. S. Jupiter: New estimates of the mean zonal flow at the cloud level. Icarus 65, 335–352 ( 1986).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  16. Little, B. et al. Galileo images of lightning on Jupiter. Icarus 142, 306–323 ( 1999).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  17. Gierasch, P. et al. Observation of moist convection in Jupiter's atmosphere. Nature 403, 628–630 ( 2000).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  18. Ingersoll, A. P., Gierasch, P. J., Banfield, D. & Vasavada, A. R. Moist convection as an energy source for the large-scale motions in Jupiter's atmosphere. Nature 403, 630– 632 (2000).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  19. Vasavada, A. R. et al. Galileo imaging of Jupiter's atmosphere: The Great Red Spot, equatorial region, and white ovals. Icarus 135, 265–275 (1998).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

Download references


This work was partly carried out at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under contract with NASA, through the Jupiter System Data Analysis Program and the Galileo Project. M.R.-S. acknowledges financial support from PRAXIS XXI/FCT (Fundação pana a Ciência e a Tecnologia), and the French Embassy/ICCTI (Instituto de Cooperação Cietífica e Tecnológica Internacional), Portugal. We thank P. Gierasch, D. Banfield and T. Entrenaz for very constructive discussions, and J. Yoshimizu for help in making Fig. 1.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to M. Roos-Serote.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Roos-Serote, M., Vasavada, A., Kamp, L. et al. Proximate humid and dry regions in Jupiter's atmosphere indicate complex local meteorology. Nature 405, 158–160 (2000).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing