Articles | Volume 23, issue 5
28 Jul 2005
 | 28 Jul 2005

Magnetospheric energy inputs into the upper atmospheres of the giant planets

C. G. A. Smith, S. Miller, and A. D. Aylward

Abstract. We revisit the effects of Joule heating upon the upper atmospheres of Jupiter and Saturn. We show that in addition to direct Joule heating there is an additional input of kinetic energy – ion drag energy – which we quantify relative to the Joule heating. We also show that fluctuations about the mean electric field, as observed in the Earth's ionosphere, may significantly increase the Joule heating itself. For physically plausible parameters these effects may increase previous estimates of the upper atmospheric energy input at Saturn from ~10 TW to ~20 TW.

Keywords. Ionosphere (Electric fields and currents; Planetary ionosphere) – Magnetospheric physics (Auroral phenomena)