DPS 35th Meeting, 1-6 September 2003
Session 44. Terrestrial Planets I
Oral, Chairs: M. A. Bullock and D. H. Grinspoon, Saturday, September 6, 2003, 10:30-11:20am, DeAnza III

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[44.04] Observing Weather in Venus's Lower Atmosphere

E. F. Young, M. A. Bullock (SwRI), N.J. Chanover (New Mexico State University), M. T. Lemmon (Texas A & M University)

The rotation rate of Venus's sulfuric acid clouds is roughly 60 times greater than that of the solid surface, a phenomenon which is only partially understood. To help learn more about the details of the cloud motions, we observed Venus on three occasions near the past two inferior conjunctions at 2.3 microns, a window which transmits thermal radiation emanating from the lower scale heights of the atmosphere. Clouds block the thermal radiation in this wavelength band and show up as silhouettes on Venus's night side. We tracked atmospheric features to estimate their rates and directions.

Several previous investigators have used 2.3 micron imaging to track Venus's clouds (e.g., Carlson et al. 1991, Crisp et al. 1991, Chanover et al. 1998). We compare our results to these previous investigations and to a solid-body rotator. We find no clear trend relating rotation rate to latitude. Instead, we often see local features with different rotation rates and different meridional directions from their neighbors within a latitudinal zone. These motions suggest that we are seeing snapshots of eddies in the mid-latitudes.

Thick cloud cover is nearly always present at the equatorial latitudes and at both poles. The intermediate latitudes show thin cloud cover which is often broken into several narrow latitudinal ``zones,'' although these zones are certainly unlike belts and zones seen on Jupiter and Saturn, if only because (a) they are ephemeral on timescales of days and (b) they often have orientations that are up to 15 degrees away from the horizontal. As Crisp et al. (1991) suggest, these clearer regions could be the result of downwelling, possibly a manifestation of Hadley cells in the lower cloud deck. In approximately ten percent of our images we see turbulent-looking edges of the cloudy equatorial region, suggesting significant shear between adjacent latitudinal zones.

Mark Bullock acknowledges support from NASA's Planetary Atmospheres and NSF's Planetary Astronomy programs


Carlson, R.W., K.H. Baines, T. Encrenaz, F.W. Tay-lor, P. Drossart, L.W. Kamp, J.B. Pollack, E. Lellouch, A.D. Collard, S.B. Calcutt, D.H. Grinspoon, P.R. Weissman, W.D. Smythe, A.C. Ocampo, G.E. Danielson, F.P. Fanale, T.V. Johnson, H.H. Kieffer, D.L. Matson, T.B. McCord, and L.A. Soderblom, Galileo infrared imaging spectrometer measurements at Venus, Science, 253, 1541-1548, 1991.

Chanover, N.J., D.A. Glenar, and J.J. Hillman, Multispectral near-IR imaging of Venus nightside cloud features, Journal of Geophysical Research, 103, 31,335-31,348, 1998.

Crisp, D., S. McMuldroch, S.K. Stephens, W.M. Sinton, B. Ragent, K.W. Hodapp, R.G. Probst, L.R. Doyle, D.A. Allen, and J. Elias, Ground-based near-infrared imaging observations of Venus during the Galileo encounter, Science, 253, 1538-1541, 1991b.

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 35 #4
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