What’s Up On Jupiter?

It’s Big, And It’s Climate Is Changing

090309-mm-jupiterspot-01Jupiter’s Great Red Spot has been there a long time.  Galileo first spotted it in 1610, and it’s been watched ever since.  But it’s not constant and unchanging.  We’ve known and observed small changes in in it’s size and color, and assumed that these changes reflect changes in it’s chemical composition.  But for the first time, The Great Red Spot seems to be shrinking, and other storms on Jupiter are merging to rival – or at least threaten – its status as the largest storm in the Solar System.  Earlier this week, Space.com gave us this:

On Earth, hurricanes form and dissipate in a matter of days. On Jupiter, storms can rage for years or even centuries. The Great Red Spot, a colossal storm twice the diameter of our planet, has lasted at least 300 years.

But now that mother of all storms is shrinking just as other spots emerge to challenge its status.

Observations of cloud cover over the past decade or so have suggested the huge, oval tempest was getting smaller as Jupiter’s climate changes.

Climate change?  Most assuredly.  Climates do that.  Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is not going to disappear tomorrow, but it is changing.  And change on a planetary scale is always “interesting”.  This may have something to do with the merging of 3 white “ovals” on Jupiter a few years ago.  Philip Marcus, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley is an expert in fluid and atmospheric dynamics, and decided that he has a good way to understand Jupiter’s changes.

“We think that upheavals might be related to the way that vortices move heat around the planet — when there are many vortices, they are very efficient at moving heat all the way from the equator to the poles,” Asay-Davis explained. “But when there are fewer, they are likely to be much less efficient.”

Back in 1998 to 2000, three large storms, all white ovals, merged. That might have had a big impact on the entire planet’s climate.

Explore posts in the same categories: Astronomy, Global Warming

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