Fluctuations in Jupiter’s equatorial stratospheric oscillation


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.

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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 https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.3764712.


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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




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.

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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.

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Antuñano, A., Cosentino, R.G., Fletcher, L.N. et al. Fluctuations in Jupiter’s equatorial stratospheric oscillation. Nat Astron 5, 71–77 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41550-020-1165-5

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