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Unexpected long-term variability in Jupiter’s tropospheric temperatures

An Author Correction to this article was published on 27 February 2023

This article has been updated


An essential component of planetary climatology is knowledge of the tropospheric temperature field and its variability. Previous studies of Jupiter hinted at non-seasonal periodic behaviour, as well as the presence of a dynamical relationship between tropospheric and stratospheric temperatures. However, these observations were made over time frames shorter than Jupiter’s orbit or they used sparse sampling. Here we derive upper-tropospheric (330-mbar) temperatures over 40 years, covering several orbits of Jupiter. Periodicities of 4, 7–9 and 10–14 years were discovered that involve different latitude bands and seem disconnected from seasonal changes in solar heating. Anticorrelations of variability in opposite hemispheres were particularly striking at 16°, 22° and 30° from the equator. Equatorial temperature variations are also anticorrelated with those observed 60–70 km above. Such behaviour suggests a top-down control of equatorial tropospheric temperatures from stratospheric dynamics. Realistic future global climate models must address the origins of these variations in preparation for their extension to a wider array of gas giant exoplanets.

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Fig. 1: Brightness-temperature variations along Jupiter’s central meridian for two filters.
Fig. 2: Retrieved temperatures at 330 mbar.
Fig. 3: Interhemispheric correlations.
Fig. 4: An example of the smoothed brightness-temperature profile (solid red line) at the equator, with the purple shaded region representing its corresponding 1σ range.
Fig. 5: Comparison between variability of zonal-mean temperatures at 330 mbar (green lines and filled circles) and 7.9-µm brightness temperatures (orange lines and filled circles).

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Some of this research was carried out at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (grant no. 80NM0018D0004). J.J.G., A.V.P., K.A.B. and L.E.W. worked on this research as interns in Caltech’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship programme, supported by the above funding. A.V.P. also worked in the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Summer Internship Program supported by the above funds. L.N.F. and A.A. were supported by a European Research Council Consolidator grant (under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, grant agreement no. 723890) at the University of Leicester. This research used the ALICE High Performance Computing Facility at the University of Leicester. P.T.D. was supported by Science and Technology Facilities Council PhD Studentship. G.S.O., L.N.F., J.A.S., T.W.M. and P.Y.-F. were Visiting Astronomers at the Infrared Telescope Facility, which is operated by the University of Hawaii under contract no. 80HQTR19D0030 with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. This research is based, in part, on data collected at the Subaru Telescope, which is operated by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan; we are honoured and grateful for the opportunity of observing the Universe from Maunakea, which has cultural, historical and natural significance in Hawaii. Some of the data presented herein using the Subaru Telescope were obtained by way of an exchange programme with the W. M. Keck Observatory, which is operated as a scientific partnership among the California Institute of Technology, the University of California and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The Observatory was made possible by the generous financial support of the W. M. Keck Foundation. We recognize and acknowledge the very significant cultural role and reverence that the summit of Maunakea has always had within the indigenous Hawaiian community. We are most fortunate to have the opportunity to conduct observations from this mountain. We acknowledge the work of those who made observations before 2002 and the authors of previous work5,9 who inspired this study.

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Authors and Affiliations



G.S.O. wrote most of the main text and Supplementary Information, was responsible for the general organization and led many of the observing runs and the initial reduction of the observations. A.A. organized the observations from the original measurements, performed the calibrations, executed the temperature retrievals and wrote a part of the main text and Supplementary Information. L.N.F. guided the spectral retrieval methodology, led many of the observing runs and the initial reduction of the observations and helped to draft the manuscript. J.A.S., T.W.M., T.F., P.Y.-F. and P.T.D. constituted part of the teams making the observations since 2002. J.J.G., A.V.P., K.A.B. and L.E.W. were responsible for examining the consistency of the calibrations, testing stellar calibrations and testing retrieval approaches on subsets of the data addressed here. All authors reviewed and commented on the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Glenn S. Orton.

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Supplementary Discussion, Figs. 1–3, Table 1 and ref. 39.

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Orton, G.S., Antuñano, A., Fletcher, L.N. et al. Unexpected long-term variability in Jupiter’s tropospheric temperatures. Nat Astron 7, 190–197 (2023).

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