Structure and Dynamics of Fluid Planets

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Howard Houben, Bay Area Environmental Research Institute, Petaluma, CA, United States
Attention to conservation laws gives a comprehensive picture of the structure and dynamics of gas giants: Atmospheric differential rotation is generated by tidal torques (dependent on tropospheric static stability) and is dragged into the interior by turbulent viscosity. The consequent heat dissipation generates baroclinicity and approximate thermal wind balance, not Taylor-Proudman conditions. Magnetic Lorentz forces have no effect on the zonal wind, but generate a meridional wind approximately parallel to field lines. Thus, magnetic field generation in the interior is dominated by the ω-effect (zonal field wound up by differential rotation), with the α-effect (meridional field generated by turbulence) severely limited by the β-effect (turbulence-enhanced resistivity). The meridional circulation quenches the ω-effect so that a steady state is reached and also limits the magnitude of the non-axisymmetric field under certain circumstances. The stability of the steady state requires further study. The magnetic field travels with the E X B drift, rather than the fluid velocity. Work by the fluid on the magnetic field balances work by the magnetic field on the fluid, so the global heat flux is little changed. In conducting regions the meridional density distribution (and gravity field) is most sensitive to the total pressure (gas + magnetic) and the ω-effect. In nonconducting regions, the gas pressure, centrifugal force, and differential rotation dominate. The differential rotation varies at least as fast as r³, so the gravitational signal is small compared to that for differential rotation on cylinders. The entropy minimum near the tropopause allows meteorology to be dominated by (relatively) long-lived, closed potential temperature surfaces, usually called spots, which conserve potential vorticity. All of the above must be taken into account to properly assimilate any available observational data to further specify the interior properties of fluid planets.