Zonal flow and vortices with deep convection and shallow stable stratification

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Moritz H Heimpel, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada, Thomas Gastine, MPS, Katlenburg-Lindau, Germany and Johannes Wicht, Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Katlenburg-Lindau, Germany
Bands and vortices are the two main features of Jupiter's cloud layer. The bands correspond to zonal jets, with strong eastward flow near the equator, and alternating east-west jets at higher latitudes. The vortices are mostly anticyclonic, including the Great Red Spot, which drifts at a southern latitude in the first anticyclonic shear zone away from the equator. Although space missions and ground based observations have revealed beautiful and detailed images of cloud layer flow and thermal emissions, fundamental questions remain unanswered. How deeply are the jets and vortices seated? Why are most jovian vortices anticyclonic, opposite to cyclones on Earth? Previous investigations of planetary flows have focussed on either jets or vortices with few studies of systems that host both features. Here we study rotating convection using the benchmarked 3D spherical anelastic dynamo code MAGIC, with flow driven by convection at depth, but with a stably stratified outer layer. Our results show that multiple jets, which are driven by convection, penetrate deeper than vortices, which are confined to the shallow stably stratified layer. Due to computational limitations requiring high viscosity, model vortices have short lifetimes. Nevertheless, similar to the Great Red Spot, the largest model vortices occur in the lowest latitude anticyclonic shear bands, which form near the outer boundary latitudes corresponding to the inner boundary tangent cylinder. The dominance of anticyclonic vortices is explained simply in that they arise from ascending (divergent) plumes which are spun in the anticyclonic direction by the Coriolis force.