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Simulation of equatorial and high-latitude jets on Jupiter in a deep convection model


The bands of Jupiter represent a global system of powerful winds. Broad eastward equatorial jets are flanked by smaller-scale, higher-latitude jets flowing in alternating directions1,2. Jupiter's large thermal emission suggests that the winds are powered from within3,4, but the zonal flow depth is limited by increasing density and electrical conductivity in the molecular hydrogen–helium atmosphere towards the centre of the planet5. Two types of planetary flow models have been explored: shallow-layer models reproduce multiple high-latitude jets, but not the equatorial flow system6,7,8, and deep convection models only reproduce an eastward equatorial jet with two flanking neighbours9,10,11,12,13,14. Here we present a numerical model of three-dimensional rotating convection in a relatively thin spherical shell that generates both types of jets. The simulated flow is turbulent and quasi-two-dimensional and, as observed for the jovian jets, simulated jet widths follow Rhines' scaling theory2,12,13,15. Our findings imply that Jupiter's latitudinal transition in jet width corresponds to a separation between the bottom-bounded flow structures in higher latitudes and the deep equatorial flows.

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Figure 1: Illustration of rapidly rotating turbulent convection in a spherical shell.
Figure 2: Zonal flow for Jupiter and the numerical simulation.
Figure 3: Measured jet widths compared to jet widths predicted by Rhines scaling for Jupiter (a) and the numerical model (b).


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Funding was provided by NSERC Canada, UCLA, and the DFG Germany priority programme ‘Geomagnetic variations’. Computational resources were provided by the Western Canada Research Grid (West Grid).

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Correspondence to Moritz Heimpel.

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This file contains Supplementary Results, Supplementary Discussion, Supplementary Figures 1–4 and Supplementary Table 1. (PDF 465 kb)

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Heimpel, M., Aurnou, J. & Wicht, J. Simulation of equatorial and high-latitude jets on Jupiter in a deep convection model. Nature 438, 193–196 (2005).

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