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Titan’s Greenhouse Effect and Climate: Lessons from the Earth’s Cooler Cousin A White Paper Submission to the NRC Planetary Science Decadal Survey Conor.

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Presentation on theme: "Titan’s Greenhouse Effect and Climate: Lessons from the Earth’s Cooler Cousin A White Paper Submission to the NRC Planetary Science Decadal Survey Conor."— Presentation transcript:

1 Titan’s Greenhouse Effect and Climate: Lessons from the Earth’s Cooler Cousin A White Paper Submission to the NRC Planetary Science Decadal Survey Conor A. Nixon 1,*, Athena Coustenis 2, Jonathan I. Lunine 3, Ralph Lorenz 4, Carrie M. Anderson 5, F. Michael Flasar 5, Christophe Sotin 6, J. Hunter Waite Jr. 7, V. Malathy Devi 8, Olivier Mousis 9, Kim R. Reh 6, Konstantinos Kalogerakis 10, A. James Friedson 6, Henry Roe 11, Yuk L. Yung 12, Valeria Cottini 1, Giorgos Bampasidis 13, Richard K. Achterberg 1, Nicholas A. Teanby 14, Gordon L. Bjoraker 5, Eric H. Wilson 6, Tilak Hewagama 1, Mark A. Gurwell 15, Roger Yelle 3, Mark Allen 6, Nathan J. Strange 6, Linda J. Spilker 6, Glenn Orton 6, Candice J. Hansen 6, Jason W. Barnes 16, Jason M. Soderblom 3, Vladimir B. Zivkovic 17, Anezina Solomonidou 13, David L. Huestis 10, Mark A. Smith 3, David H. Atkinson 18, Patrick G. J. Irwin 14, Mathieu Hirtzig 2, Simon B. Calcutt 14, Timothy A. Livengood 5, Sandrine Vinatier 5, Theodore Kostiuk 5, Antoine Jolly 19, Nasser Moazzen-Ahmadi 20, Darrell F. Strobel 21, Mao-Chang Liang 22, Patricia M. Beauchamp 6, Remco de Kok 23, Robert Pappalardo 6, Imke de Pater 24, Véronique Vuitton 25, Paul N. Romani 5, Robert A. West 6, Lucy H. Norman 26, Mary Ann H. Smith 27, Kathleen Mandt 7, Sebastien Rodriguez 28, Máté Ádámkovics 24, Jean-Marie Flaud 29, Kurt K. Klaus 30, Michael Wong 31, Jean-Pierre Lebreton 32, Neil Bowles 14, Marina Galand 33, Linda R. Brown 6, F. Javier Martin-Torres 12, Brook Lakew 5, Shahid Aslam Univ. Maryland, * 2 Obs. Paris, 3 Univ. Arizona, 4 APL, 5 NASA GSFC, 6 Caltech/JPL, 7 SWRI, 8 Coll. Wm. and Mary, 9 Obs. Besançon, 10 SRI, 11 Lowell Obs., 12 Cal. Inst. Tech, 13 Univ. Athens, 14 Univ. Oxford, 15 Harvard-Smithsonian, 16 Univ. Idaho (Physics), 17 Univ. N. Dakota, 18 Univ Idaho (E.Eng.), 19 LISA Univ. Paris, 20 Univ. Calgary, 21 JHU, 22 Academica Sinica, 23 SRON, 24 UC Berkeley, 25 Lab. Plan. Grenoble, 26 UCL, 27 NASA LRC, 28 CEA/Univ. Paris, 29 LISA/CNRS, 30 Boeing, 31 STScI, 32 ESA/ESTEC, 33 Imperial Coll. London, 34 MEI Technologies. * ABSTRACT 1. GREENHOUSE EFFECT: HOW DOES IT WORK? 4. THE FATE OF THE ATMOSPHERE OUR RECOMMENDATIONS: Key molecules in Titan’s atmosphere are more transparent to visible light than to infrared radiation. When sunlight reaches Titan’s surface, some re- radiated thermal energy is trapped, warming the lower atmosphere and surface. A feedback loop also exists, whereby small increases in H 2, which is not limited by saturation, causes more CH 4 to be retained in the atmosphere, increasing and amplifying the warming. The Decadal Survey for Planetary Science conducted by the Space Studies Board of the US National Academies, recently issued a call for white papers, to inform prioritization of future funding for research, including missions. This poster summarizes our submitted paper. We show here that Titan is an atmospheric ‘greenhouse world’, like the Earth, Mars and Venus. Study of Earth’s planetary ‘cousins’, including Titan, has great potential to inform us about the nature of the greenhouse effect and long-term climate change on our world. See the final box for our recommendations on how best to address this important topic. Titan Atmosphere Schematic. Credit: ESA 2. ANTI-GREENHOUSE EFFECT An opposing anti-greenhouse effect cools the atmosphere. This is mainly due to stratospheric haze particles that are transparent to infrared but absorb visible light. The net result of the positive (+23 K) and negative (-11 K) greenhouse effects is +12 K, raising the surface temperature from 84 K to 94 K. Compare to the Earth (+30 K), Venus (+500 K) and Mars (+5 K). MESSAGE: Titan’s greenhouse effect resembles the Earth’s. By studying Titan we can better understand the Earth’s atmospheric processes. At least 12 haze layers are seen on this Cassini ISS image at 10°S. (NASA/JPL/SSI) 3. SEASONAL CHANGE: SMILE OR FROWN? Titan experiences an ~30 yr seasonal cycle due to its orbital inclination. Imaging in 1992 showed a ‘smile’: a bright up- turned arc in the southern hemisphere at red wavelengths. Blue images showed the opposite: a bright northern hemisphere. In 2002 the trend was reversed, with a ‘frowning’ bright (red) north. This seasonal ‘migration’ of haze from south to north and back is caused by a summer-pole-to- winter-pole circulation in the stratosphere. MESSAGE: Titan experiences seasons with parallels to the Earth. Modeling these changes is a useful test of terrestrial models: including physical, chemical and dynamical processes. Image: R. Lorenz/STScI Titan’s upper atmosphere functions as a vast chemical factory, turning the raw materials (N 2, CH 4, H 2 O) into more complex molecules and haze. These condense and fall from the atmosphere, causing an irreversible depletion of methane. The CH 4 inventory will last just ~10 7 Myr, unless resupplied: perhaps by volcanism, outgassing, or cometary impacts. If all CH 4 is removed, then the atmosphere may periodically collapse and freeze out on the surface. MESSAGE: Titan is a case study in climate change. By investigating Titan’s fate, we can better appreciate how the Earth may undergo natural or anthropogenic climate change. Graphic: NASA TSSM Final Report/J. Lunine. For more information, including electronic downloads of this poster and the full white paper, please visit: To advance critical research into Titan's climatology - simultaneously advancing our understanding of the Earth’s atmosphere - we advocate to the NRC Decadal Survey for Planetary Science the following steps: 1.Endorse: the strong positive findings of the recent Senior Review of the Cassini Solstice Mission, to continue the mission until Urge that a successor Titan-focused mission be given very high priority for near-term development and launch. 3.Recommend continued funding for strong ground-based, airborne and space-based observing campaigns for continuous, long-term Titan monitoring. 4.Support continued funding for applicable NASA R&A programs and the NSF Planetary Astronomy Program; and for associated laboratory experiments, modeling and theoretical calculations. 5.Propose that a dedicated NASA outer planetary flagship mission program be initiated, analogous to the Mars and lunar programs, to encompass the continued operations of Cassini, and follow-on flagship missions.


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