Modeling and Observing the Role of Wind-Waves in Lake-Climate Interactions on Titan using the T104 Flyby of Kraken Mare

Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 12:05 PM
Alexander G Hayes Jr, Cornell University, Astronomy, Ithaca, NY, United States, Ralph D Lorenz, JHU / APL, Laurel, MD, United States, Howard A Zebker, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, United States, Mark A Donelan, University of Miami, Miami, FL, United States, Ozgur Karatekin, Royal Observatory of Belgium, Brussels, Belgium, Marco Mastrogiuseppe Sr, Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy, Alice Anne Le Gall, LATMOS Laboratoire Atmosphères, Milieux, Observations Spatiales, Paris Cedex 05, France, Jason Daniel Hofgartner, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, United States, Pierre Encrenaz, Observatoire de Paris, LERMA, Paris, France and Valerio Poggiali, Università La Sapienza, Dipartimento di Ingegneria dell’Informazione, Rome, Italy
Oceanography is no longer just an Earth Science. Standing bodies of liquid that interact with both atmospheric and surface reservoirs are known to exist on Titan, and are thought to have existed on early Mars. The exchange of heat, moisture, and momentum between lakes/seas and the atmosphere are of fundamental importance to the hydrologic systems of all three bodies. The generation and propagation of wind-waves, and their consequent shoreline erosion, are key factors in air-sea-surface exchange. Titan, in particular, offers a laboratory in which to understand these processes at a more fundamental level. Much of the parameterization for wave models on Earth are empirical, despite laboratory studies that have demonstrated wave growth depends on both gravity and fluid properties. Titan’s exotic environment ensures that even rudimentary measurements of wave generation will provide valuable data to anchor physical models. Furthermore, in the presence of wind waves, Cassini can be used as an anemometer to measure wind speeds over hydrocarbon liquids.

Herein, we will report on the results of the Aug 21st altimetry observation over Titan’s largest sea, Kraken Mare, and interpret them in the context of wave activity and composition (from passive radiometry). On Earth, it is rare to observe a body of water whose surface is not disturbed by some form of wave activity. On Titan, Cassini observations through the end of its Equinox Mission in Dec 2010 showed no indication of waves. These observations are intriguing given the predominance of aeolian features at equatorial latitudes and have been attributed to the light winds predicted during the Titan winter. More recently, however, the previous series of upper limits and non-detections are giving way to indications that the expected freshening of winds in northern summer may be causing sporadic ruffling of the sea surfaces. Specifically, apparent sunglints offset from the geometric specular point has been observed by VIMS in Punga Mare and a transient radar signature has been observed over the surface of Ligeia Mare. SAR images also reveal morphologies consistent with secondary coastlines, most notably at Ontario Lacus and Ligeia Mare. In addition to the altimetry of Kraken, we will also discuss the potential role of wind-waves in shaping coastal morphologies observed in SAR images.