Moist Convection and the 2010-2011 Revival of Jupiter's South Equatorial Belt [EPA]

The transformation of Jupiter’s South Equatorial Belt (SEB) from its faded, whitened state in 2009-2010 to its normal brown appearance is documented via comparisons of thermal-infrared (5-20 $\mu$m) and visible-light imaging between November 2010 and November 2011. The SEB revival consisted of convective eruptions triggered over $\sim100$ days, potentially powered by the latent heat released by the condensation of water. The plumes rise from the water cloud base and ultimately diverge and cool in the stably-stratified upper troposphere. Thermal-IR images were acquired 2 days after the SEB disturbance was first detected by amateur observers on November 9th 2010. Subsequent images revealed the cold, putatively anticyclonic and cloudy plume tops surrounded by warm, cloud-free conditions at their peripheries. The majority of the plumes erupted from a single source near $140-160^\circ$W, coincident with the remnant cyclonic circulation of a brown barge that had formed during the fade. Additional plumes erupted from the leading edge of the central disturbance immediately east of the source. The tropospheric plumes excited stratospheric thermal waves over the SEB, showing a direct connection between moist convection and stratospheric wave activity. The subsidence of dry, unsaturated air warmed the troposphere and removed the white aerosols. The aerosol-free air was redistributed throughout the SEB by the zonal flow, following a westward-moving southern branch and an eastward-moving northern branch that revived the brown colouration over $\sim200$ days. The last stage of the revival was the re-establishment of normal convective activity northwest of the GRS in September 2011. Moist convection may therefore play an important role in controlling the timescale and atmospheric variability during the SEB life cycle. [Abridged]

Read this paper on arXiv…

L. Fletcher, G. Orton, J. Rogers, et. al.
Thu, 5 Jan 17

Comments: 30 pages, 13 figures, accepted for publication in Icarus (2017)