Saturn’s moon Titan may help decode climate change on Earth: Study

Posted: December 5, 2019 by oldbrew in atmosphere, climate, moon, Natural Variation, solar system dynamics, weather

View from Titan [artist’s impression]

From the report: ‘the researchers said, learning more about the energy budget of Titan can add to the understanding of climate change on Earth.’ Indeed – and help could be at hand with that.

Researchers have found that Saturn’s largest moon Titan undergoes significant seasonal changes in its energy budget — the amount of solar energy it absorbs, and the heat it emits — an advance that may lead to new insights about climate fluctuations on the Earth, reports Financial Express.

The study, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, noted that Titan is the only body in the solar system, other than Earth, with a significant atmosphere and liquid surface lakes.

The researchers, including those from the University of Houston in the US, said Titan’s dynamically-varying energy budget has important impacts on its weather and climate systems.

As part of the study, the scientists used data collected from the Cassini mission between 2004 and 2017. They said this data pertained to the equivalent of about half an Earth year for Saturn and Titan, or portions of three seasons.

According to the researchers, the data provided the first opportunity to systematically examine the seasonal variations of Titan. Both the moon’s emitted thermal energy and absorbed solar energy decreased over the 14-year period, the study noted.

However, they said the thermal emission from Titan dropped less — about 6.8 per cent — compared with an 18.6 per cent drop in solar energy it received. The study noted that this varied between the northern and southern atmospheres of Titan, and also depended on the moon’s distance from the sun during its orbit.

While there are some parallels that could be drawn to study similar effects on the Earth, the researchers said our planet and Titan also differed drastically in several ways.

Full article here.

  1. This may provide N&Z with more information to refine their model.but it seems another probe to Titan and other moons of Saturn are required.

  2. oldbrew says:

    Titan is the only body in the solar system, other than Earth, with a significant atmosphere and liquid surface lakes.

    That’s the key point. If the atmospheric pressure (due to mass and distance from Sun i.e. gravity) and incoming solar radiation (due to distance from Sun) are the fundamental factors, planetary/moon temperatures can be predicted to a good degree of accuracy. Again, significant atmosphere is required.

    Local conditions will play a part in internal variability, but won’t overthrow the basics.

  3. JB says:

    I’m all for learning as much as possible about the solar system, but what makes these fellows think that spending huge sums to figure out weather patterns on a distant moon is going to be any more insightful than here? If they don’t understand what’s going on here they’re very unlikely to understand it at a remote location.

    Poirier’s theorem still holds. Less thinking = more money and too much is being spent on duplicative research as nobody seems to want to find out what is already known by some bright person 20 years previous.

  4. tom0mason says:

    Sounds like a nice project, and the cost?
    Will it open the eyes of the majority of the current batch ‘climate scientists’ and their adherence to modeling everything and observing very little, I doubt it.
    Maybe some money could be more usefully employed observing and measuring how sunlight changes the oceans biologically, and the oceans’ heat content, the disposition of the heat and how, when and where it moves, and actual effects on the ocean currents overall (from global, to regional, to macro scale), and how all this is linked to lunar/solar variations. IMO current scientific understanding of our oceans is poor — can we learn more from a distant planet’s moon and it’s liquid surface lakes?
    Then maybe some more money should be used to clarify Earth’s climate by looking (observation and measurements) at how clouds are linked to those oceanic variations. Investigate how clouds form, how the energy in the clouds is really utilized, how and why clouds disperse (from global, to regional, to macro scale). How clouds and solar activity is linked, the how, why, and when the patterns of clouds over the globe vary. Then sort out how, why, and when the humidity and air pressure (from global to regional, to macro scale) vary — again with attention paid to the solar/lunar effects. Scientific understanding of clouds is at best rudimentary — will studying a distant planet’s moon help here?

    I doubt that this moon will help with understanding our climate very much, it may even make some of those climate science types of the alarmist persuasion stick evermore limpet-like to their computer models.

  5. oldbrew says:

    As they don’t have any historical climate records for Titan, decoding its climate change looks like a non-starter.

  6. Gamecock says:

    Basic research, searching for relevance.

  7. oldbrew says:

    In the experiment reported below, ‘they set the atmospheric pressure to 1.5-bar—which is 1.5 times higher than Earth’s at sea level—and temperatures ranged from a brisk 83 degrees Kelvin (-190 Celsius or -310 Fahrenheit) to a balmy 94 degrees Kelvin (-179 Celsius or -290 Fahrenheit).’
    – – –
    Solar irradiance (W/m2) 14.82 (Saturn) 1,361.0 (Earth)
    Fourth root of (14.82 / 1361) = 0.323~
    Earth sea level mean temp = 287 K
    Calc. for Titan temp. at 1 bar pressure: 287K * 0.323 = 92.7 K [see Titan atmosphere graph below]
    – – –
    DECEMBER 4, 2019
    New study finds the mix that makes Titan’s lakes spew nitrogen bubbles

    Two scenarios resulted in bubbles. At temperatures below 86 degrees Kelvin, ethane layered on top of nitrogen-rich methane, no matter what order they were poured into the petri dish. As the temperature warmed, the methane underneath began to foam and when the layers dissolved, bubbles reached the surface.

    If the chamber was above 86 degrees Kelvin when the researchers added the liquids, methane flowing into ethane didn’t yield any foam. Only ethane flowing into methane pools produced bubbles—and did so forcefully.

    “The most surprising thing was how violent the explosions were,” Farnsworth said. During one experiment, the outburst of bubbles was so strong, it affected the equipment. “All of a sudden, I look over and the bubbles literally blew up and hit my camera,” she recalled.

    Fun fizz

    The new results suggest changes in both temperature and composition are crucial for bubbles to form in Titan’s lakes.

    (13 seconds)

    A graph detailing temperature, pressure, and other aspects of Titan’s climate. The atmospheric haze lowers the temperature in the lower atmosphere, while methane raises the temperature at the surface. Cryovolcanoes erupt methane into the atmosphere, which then rains down onto the surface, forming lakes. – Wikipedia

    Titan’s temp. at 1 bar may be slightly lower than our calc. (above), but it does have thicker cloud cover than Earth.

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