Cloudy With A Chance Of Improvement

Weather has significant effects on the evolution of the surface and the atmosphere on Earth and it plays a similar role on other planets, too.  To date, most gas giant atmospheric models have either been without any or with a simplified parameterization scheme for cloud microphysics, or they were limited to simulate more realistic clouds on a local scale.  Such models may reproduce many features of the observed Jovian atmospheric dynamics but they lack the feedback from moist processes or the interaction with the large scale jets and vortices.  These models cannot address problems related to the composition and abundance of clouds and they cannot provide any information about their vertical and horizontal distributions. Here I will present results from the latest 3D simulations of Jupiter’s atmosphere. The model employs a complete hydrological cycle that includes interactive vapor, cloud and precipitation phases.  This microphysics parameterization can be extended to multiple species or to other planets in our Solar System or even to exoplanets. The typical model configuration uses 45–50 non-uniformly spaced vertical layers that include 10–15 layers at the expected ammonia cloud levels that allows us to investigate the vertical structure of Jovian clouds in details.  Results indicate significant heterogeneity in the cloud density values both horizontally and vertically that is in good agreement with observational data.  These simulations reproduce the deep clouds and the cloud-free regions in the vicinity of the Great Red Spot and the elevated clouds over the vortex that were observed by the Galileo Near Infrared Mapping Spectrometer. The limited role of secondary circulation in the formation of clouds and the correlation between the thermal structure and the distribution of ammonia clouds will also be discussed.