PerspectivePlanetary Science

Winds of Change on Titan

Science  30 Jul 2010:
Vol. 329, Issue 5991, pp. 519-520
DOI: 10.1126/science.1192840

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Summary

On Saturn's moon Titan, giant sand dunes cover more than 20% of the surface. The orientation of thousands of dunes (1, 2) within Titan's equatorial belt indicates transport of sand from west to east (by “westerly” winds), whereas all the atmospheric circulation models suggest that the winds should be in the opposite direction. A new model by Tokano (3) may have found the resolution: Although the winds are usually easterlies (as in other work), there is a blast of wind from the west for a brief interval around each equinox, and it is these stronger winds that dominate the dune orientation.