Articles | Volume 23, issue 7
14 Oct 2005
 | 14 Oct 2005

Polar heating in Saturn's thermosphere

C. G. A. Smith, A. D. Aylward, S. Miller, and I. C. F. Müller-Wodarg

Abstract. A 3-D numerical global circulation model of the Kronian thermosphere has been used to investigate the influence of polar heating. The distributions of temperature and winds resulting from a general heat source in the polar regions are described. We show that both the total energy input and its vertical distribution are important to the resulting thermal structure. We find that the form of the topside heating profile is particularly important in determining exospheric temperatures. We compare our results to exospheric temperatures from Voyager occultation measurements (Smith et al., 1983; Festou and Atreya, 1982) and auroral H3+ temperatures from ground-based spectroscopic observations (e.g. Miller et al., 2000). We find that a polar heat source is consistent with both the Smith et al. determination of T~400 K at ~30° N and auroral temperatures. The required heat source is also consistent with recent estimates of the Joule heating rate at Saturn (Cowley et al., 2004). However, our results show that a polar heat source can probably not explain the Festou and Atreya determination of T~800 K at ~4° N and the auroral temperatures simultaneously.

Keywords. Ionosphere (Planetary ionosphere) – Magnetospherica physics (Planetary magnetospheres) – Meterology and atmospheric dynamics (Thermospheric dynamics)