Research ArticlePLANETARY SCIENCE

Deep convection–driven vortex formation on Jupiter and Saturn

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Science Advances  13 Nov 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 46, eabb9298
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abb9298

Abstract

The surfaces of Jupiter and Saturn have magnificent vortical storms that help shape the dynamic nature of their atmospheres. Land- and space-based observational campaigns have established several properties of these vortices, with some being similar between the two planets, while others are different. Shallow-water hydrodynamics, where the vortices are treated as shallow weather-layer phenomenon, is commonly evoked for explaining their formation and properties. Here, we report novel formation mechanisms for vortices where the primary driving mechanism is the deep planetary convection occurring in these planets. Using three-dimensional simulations of turbulent convection in rotating spherical shells, we propose two ideas: (i) Rotating turbulent convection generates deep axially aligned cyclones and anticyclones; (ii) a deep planetary dynamo acts to promote additional anticyclones, some as large as Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, in an overlying atmospheric layer. We use these ideas to interpret several observational properties of vortices on Jupiter and Saturn.

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