Maintenance of Strong Rotational Winds in Venus' Middle Atmosphere by Thermal Tides

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Science  31 Jul 1992:
Vol. 257, Issue 5070, pp. 647-650
DOI: 10.1126/science.257.5070.647


The cloud-level atmosphere of Venus takes little more than 4 days to complete one rotation, whereas the solid planet below has a 243-day period. Computer simulations of the circulation of the Venus middle atmosphere between 40 and 85 kilometers, as driven by solar radiation absorbed in the clouds, reproduce (i) the observed cloud-level rotation rate, (ii) strong vertical shears above and below the cloud tops, and (iii) midlatitude jets and strong poleward flow on the day side. Simulated circulations converge to yield nearly the same zonal winds when initialized with both stronger or weaker rotation rates. These results support the hypothesis that the observed cloud-top rotation rate is maintained by statistical balance between fluxes of momentum by thermal tides and momentum advection by mean meridional circulation.