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.

Fluctuations in Jupiter’s equatorial stratospheric oscillation

An Author Correction to this article was published on 07 April 2021

This article has been updated


The equatorial stratospheres of Earth, Jupiter and Saturn all exhibit a remarkable periodic oscillation of their temperatures and winds with height. Earth’s quasi-biennial oscillation and Saturn’s quasi-periodic equatorial oscillation have recently been observed to experience disruptions in their vertical structure as a consequence of atmospheric events occurring far from the equator. Here we reveal that Jupiter’s quasi-quadrennial oscillation can also be perturbed by strong tropospheric activity at equatorial and off-equatorial latitudes. Observations of Jupiter’s stratospheric temperatures between 1980 and 2011 show two significantly different periods for the quasi-quadrennial oscillation, with a 5.7-yr period between 1980 and 1990 and a 3.9-yr period between 1996 and 2006. Major disruptions to the predicted quasi-quadrennial oscillation pattern in 1992 and 2007 coincided with marked planetary-scale disturbances in the equatorial and low-latitude troposphere, suggesting that they are connected to vertically propagating waves generated by meteorological sources in the deeper troposphere (that is 500–4,000-mbar pressures). Disruptions in Jupiter’s periodic oscillations are thus inherently different from those of Saturn or the Earth. This interconnectivity between the troposphere and stratosphere, which is probably common to all planetary atmospheres, shows that seemingly regular cycles of variability can switch between different modes when subjected to extreme meteorological events.

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

Access options

Rent or buy this article

Prices vary by article type



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

Fig. 1: QQO observations.
Fig. 2: Wavelet-transform analysis.
Fig. 3: QQO models.
Fig. 4: Longitudinal variance.

Data availability

This work relies on ground-based data acquired at the IRTF. Jupiter images at 7.6–7.9 μm are available from A.A. and from L.N.F., and are in the process of being archived with NASA’s Planetary Data System. The cylindrical maps and the emission angle files used in this study to compute the zonal-mean brightness temperatures can be found at

Change history


  1. Leovy, C. B., Friedson, A. J. & Orton, G. S. The quasiquadrennial oscillation of Jupiter’s equatorial stratosphere. Nature 354, 380–382 (1991).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  2. Baldwin, M. P. et al. The quasi-biennial oscillation. Rev. Geophys. 39, 179–230 (2001).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  3. Fouchet, T. et al. An equatorial oscillation in Saturn’s middle atmosphere. Nature 453, 200–202 (2008).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  4. Lindzen, R. S. & Holton, J. R. A theory of the quasi-biennial oscillation. J. Atmos. Sci. 25, 1095–1107 (1968).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  5. Newman, P. A., Coy, L., Pawson, S. & Lait, L. R. The anomalous change in the QBO in 2015-2016. Geophys. Res. Lett. 43, 8791–8797 (2016).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  6. Osprey, S. M. et al. An unexpected disruption of the atmospheric quasi-biennial oscillation. Science 353, 1424–1427 (2017).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  7. Barton, C. & McCormack, J. Origin of the 2016 QBO disruption and its relationship to extreme El Niño events. Geophys. Res. Lett. 44, 11150–11157 (2017).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  8. Orton, G. S. et al. Semi-annual oscillations in Saturn’s low-latitude stratospheric temperatures. Nature 453, 196–199 (2008).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  9. Fletcher, L. N. et al. Disruption of Saturn’s quasiperiodic equatorial oscillation by the great northern storm. Nat. Astron. 1, 765–770 (2017).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  10. Sánchez-Lavega, A. et al. Deep winds beneath Saturn’s upper clouds from a seasonal long-lived planetary-scale storm. Nature 475, 71–74 (2011).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  11. Fischer, G. et al. A giant thunderstorm on Saturn. Nature 475, 75–77 (2011).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  12. Fletcher, L. N. et al. Thermal structure and dynamics of Saturn’s northern springtime disturbance. Science 332, 1413–1417 (2011).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  13. Fletcher, L. N. et al. The origin and evolution of Saturn’s 2011-2012 stratospheric vortex. Icarus 221, 560–586 (2012).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  14. Orton, G. S. et al. Thermal maps of Jupiter—spatial organization and time dependence of stratospheric temperatures, 1980 to 1990. Science 252, 537–542 (1991).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  15. Orton, G. S. et al. Spatial organization and time dependence of Jupiter’s tropospheric temperatures, 1980-1993. Science 265, 625–631 (1994).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  16. Friedson, A. J. New observations and modelling of a QBO-like oscillation in Jupiter’s stratosphere. Icarus 137, 34–55 (1999).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  17. Simon-Miller, A. A. et al. Jupiter’s atmospheric temperatures: from Voyager IRIS to Cassini CIRS. Icarus 180, 98–112 (2006).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  18. Fletcher, L. N. et al. Moist convection and the 2010-2011 revival of Jupiter’s South Equatorial Belt. Icarus 286, 94–117 (2017).

  19. Cosentino, R. G. et al. New observations and modeling of Jupiter’s quasi-quadrennial oscillation. J. Geophys. Res. 122, 2719–2744 (2017).

    Google Scholar 

  20. Fletcher, L. N. et al. Mid-infrared mapping of Jupiter’s temperatures, aerosol opacity and chemical distributions with IRTF/TEXES. Icarus 278, 128–161 (2016).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  21. Guerlet, S. et al. Equatorial oscillation and planetary wave activity in Saturn’s stratosphere through the Cassini epoch. J. Geophys. Res. 123, 246–261 (2018).

    Google Scholar 

  22. Garcia, R. R., Dunkerton, T. J., Lieberman, R. S. & Vincent, R. A. Climatology of the semiannual oscillation of the tropical middle atmosphere. J. Geophys. Res. 102, 26019–26032 (1997).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  23. Flasar, F. M. et al. An intense stratospheric jet on Jupiter. Nature 427, 132–135 (2004).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  24. Peek, B. M. The Planet Jupiter (Faber and Faber, 1958).

  25. Sanchez-Lavega, A., Miyazaki, I., Parker, D., Laques, P. & Lecacheux, J. A disturbance in Jupiter’s high-speed North temperate jet during 1990. Icarus 94, 92–97 (1991).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  26. Coy, L., Newman, P. A., Pawson, S. & Lait, L. R. Dynamics of the disrupted 2015/16 quasi-biennial oscillation. J. Clim. 30, 5661–5674 (2017).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  27. Fletcher, L. et al. Jupiter’s North Equatorial Belt expansion and thermal wave activity ahead of Juno’s arrival. Geophys. Res. Lett. 44, 7140–7148 (2017).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  28. Rogers, J. H.The Giant Planet Jupiter (Cambridge University Press, 1995).

  29. Rogers, J. H. The climax of Jupiter’s global upheaval. J. Br. Astron. Assoc. 117, 226–230 (2007).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  30. Rogers, J. Jupiter in 1989-90. J. Br. Astron. Assoc. 102, 135–150 (1992).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  31. García-Melendo, E., Sánchez-Lavega, A. & Dowling, T. E. Jupiter’s 24° N highest speed jet: vertical structure deduced from nonlinear simulations of a large-amplitude natural disturbance. Icarus 176, 272–282 (2005).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  32. Sánchez-Lavega, A. et al. Depth of a strong jovian jet from a planetary-scale disturbance driven by storms. Nature 451, 437 (2008).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  33. Antuñano, A. et al. Jupiter’s atmospheric variability from long-term ground-based observations at 5 μm. Astron. J. 158, 130 (2019).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  34. Antuñano, A. et al. Infrared characterization of Jupiter’s equatorial disturbance cycle. Geophys. Res. Lett. 45, 10–987 (2018).

    Google Scholar 

  35. Yanamandra-Fisher, P., Orton, G. & Friedson, J. Time dependence of Jupiter’s tropospheric temperatures and cloud properties: the 1989 SEB disturbance. Bull. Am. Astron. Soc. 24, 1039 (1992).

    Google Scholar 

  36. Kuehn, D. & Beebe, R. A study of the time variability of Jupiter’s atmospheric structure. Icarus 101, 282–292 (1993).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  37. Satoh, T. & Kawabata, K. A change of upper cloud structure in Jupiter’s South Equatorial Belt during the 1989-1990 event. J. Geophys. Res. 99, 8425–8440 (1994).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  38. Sánchez-Lavega, A. & Gomez, J. The South Equatorial Belt of Jupiter, I: Its life cycle. Icarus 121, 1–17 (1996).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  39. Moreno, F., Molina, A. & Ortiz, J. The 1993 south equatorial belt revival and other features in the Jovian atmosphere: an observational perspective. Astron. Astrophys. 327, 1253–1261 (1997).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  40. Rogers, J. H. Jupiter embarks on a ‘global upheaval’. J. Br. Astron. Assoc. 117, 113–115 (2007).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  41. Reuter, D. C. et al. Jupiter cloud composition, stratification, convection, and wave motion: a view from new horizons. Science 318, 223 (2007).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  42. Fletcher, L. et al. Retrievals of atmospheric variables on the gas giants from ground-based mid-infrared imaging. Icarus 200, 154–175 (2009).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  43. Torrence, C. & Compo, G. P. A practical guide to wavelet analysis. Bull. Am. Astron. Soc. 79, 61–78 (1998).

    Google Scholar 

  44. Scargle, J. D. Studies in astronomical time series analysis. II—Statistical aspects of spectral analysis of unevenly spaced data. Astron. J. 263, 835–853 (1982).

    Google Scholar 

  45. Chapa, S. R., Rao, V. B. & Prasad, G. S. S. D. Application of wavelet transform to Meteosat-derived cold cloud index data over South America. Mon. Weather Rev. 126, 2466–2481 (1998).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  46. Huang, N. E. et al. The empirical mode decomposition and the Hilbert spectrum for nonlinear and non-stationary time series analysis. Proc. R. Soc. A 454, 903–995 (1998).

Download references


A.A. and L.N.F. are supported by a European Research Council Consolidator Grant under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, grant agreement number 723890, at the University of Leicester. L.N.F. is also supported by a Royal Society Research Fellowship. R.G.C.’s research was supported by an appointment to the NASA Postdoctoral Program at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, administered by Universities Space Research Association under contract with NASA. G.S.O. was supported by grants from NASA to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology. A.A.S. was supported by grants from the Space Telescope Science Institute, which is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., under NASA contract NAS 5-26555. T.G. was funded in part by a NASA SSO subgrant through the Jet Propulsion Laboratory as well as by NASA PAST grant NNX14AG34G.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



A.A. was responsible for reducing and calibrating all the data, performing the wavelet-transform analysis and writing the article. R.G.C. performed the nonlinear Levenberg–Marquardt analysis and the temperature gradient analysis, and helped write the article. G.S.O., A.A.S., T.G. and L.N.F. were responsible for or assisted with the ground-based observations and helped with the discussion. All authors read and commented on the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Arrate Antuñano.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Additional information

Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Extended data

Extended Data Fig. 1 Nonlinear Levenberg-Marquardt Fits.

Off-equatorial temperatures at ± 13 latitude as a function of time (a) showing a quasiperiodic pattern in relatively warmer and cooler temperatures. Best fits for the same years analyzed for the equatorial Models 1-4 in Fig. 3, but for 13 N (b) and 13 S (c). Models 1 and 4 for the equatorial and off-equatorial latitudes (d), showing the equatorial and off-equatorial anti-correlation.

Extended Data Fig. 2 Jupiter Meridional Temperature Gradients.

Meridional temperature gradients (in K/) as a function of time and latitude. Red indicates positive meridional gradients, while blue indicates the contrary. A drastic change in temperature gradients that clearly lined up with the two different QQO periods (that is 1992 and 2007) could provide a change in boundary conditions where additional wave energy might be transported from higher latitudes towards the equator. Note that no clear long term or seasonal dependence is observed.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Antuñano, A., Cosentino, R.G., Fletcher, L.N. et al. Fluctuations in Jupiter’s equatorial stratospheric oscillation. Nat Astron 5, 71–77 (2021).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


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