Penetrative Convection and Zonal Flow on Jupiter

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Science  16 Aug 1996:
Vol. 273, Issue 5277, pp. 941-943
DOI: 10.1126/science.273.5277.941


Measurements by the Galileo probe support the possibility that the zonal winds in Jupiter's atmosphere originate from convection that takes place in the deep hydrogen-helium interior. However, according to models based on recent opacity data and the probe's temperature measurements, there may be radiative and nonconvective layers in the outer part of the jovian interior, raising the question of how deep convection could extend to the surface. A theoretical model is presented to demonstrate that, because of predominant rotational effects and spherical geometry, thermal convection in the deep jovian interior can penetrate into any outer nonconvective layer. These penetrative convection rolls interact nonlinearly and efficiently in the model to generate and sustain a mean zonal wind with a larger amplitude than that of the nonaxisymmetric penetrative convective motions, a characteristic of the wind field observed at the cloud level on Jupiter.