The atmospheric circulation of Pluto and Triton as predicted by a general circulation model


Tuesday, January 08 2013 - 12:00 pm, PST
Angela Zalucha
SETI Institute

A variety of previous studies have investigated the 1D vertical temperature-pressure profiles of Pluto and Triton's atmospheres, while another class of models has investigated the bulk north-south transport of volatiles on these worlds.  However, only recently have modern, 3D general circulation models (GCMs) been applied to Pluto and Triton.

GCMs are global models that solve for the primitive equations of the atmosphere and surface simultaneously, and can be used to predict surface, subsurface, and atmospheric temperature; atmospheric pressure; the three components of atmospheric flow; and surface ice thickness and extent in a physically consistent way.  Most importantly from a meteorological standpoint, is that GCMs are the best tool for predicting atmospheric circulation, since this property is difficult to measure remotely.

Dr. Zalucha will discuss the results from one such Pluto/Triton GCM based off of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology GCM dynamical core.

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