Baroclinic Instability in the Venus Atmosphere

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  • 1 NASA-Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA 94035
  • | 2 Mycol, Inc., Sunnyvale, CA 94087
  • | 3 NASA-Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA 94035
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Abstract

A three-dimensional, spherical, primitive equation eigenvalue model is used to investigate the baroclinic stability properties of the wind and temperature fields in the Venus atmosphere as measured by Pioneer Venus. It is found that baroclinic instability occurs in the region of the middle cloud deck. The most unstable modes have growth times less than eight days and are vertically confined to the region near the middle cloud layer. The most unstable baroclinic mode at zonal wavenumber 2 has characteristics similar to those observed for the high latitude rotating dipole thermal feature. Certain planetary scale baroclinic modes can penetrate to relatively high altitudes under the right circumstances, and may therefore explain some of the wave features observed between 60 and 90 km. For example, thermal oscillations with periods between four and seven days occurring at middle latitudes have characteristics which appear to be consistent with computed properties of planetary scale baroclinic modes.

Abstract

A three-dimensional, spherical, primitive equation eigenvalue model is used to investigate the baroclinic stability properties of the wind and temperature fields in the Venus atmosphere as measured by Pioneer Venus. It is found that baroclinic instability occurs in the region of the middle cloud deck. The most unstable modes have growth times less than eight days and are vertically confined to the region near the middle cloud layer. The most unstable baroclinic mode at zonal wavenumber 2 has characteristics similar to those observed for the high latitude rotating dipole thermal feature. Certain planetary scale baroclinic modes can penetrate to relatively high altitudes under the right circumstances, and may therefore explain some of the wave features observed between 60 and 90 km. For example, thermal oscillations with periods between four and seven days occurring at middle latitudes have characteristics which appear to be consistent with computed properties of planetary scale baroclinic modes.

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