DOI: 10.1093/mnras/stad2556 ISSN:

A joint investigation of Saturn’s deep zonal flow via its gravitational field and Ohmic dissipation

Longhui Yuan, Dali Kong
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics


The Cassini Grand Finale provided a unique opportunity to study Saturn’s deep zonal flow. In this paper, we present a comprehensive deep zonal flow model for Saturn using a joint inversion of observed gravity and zonal flow-induced Ohmic dissipation in the semi-conducting region, under the assumption that the planet’s cloud-level wind is limited to a shallow weather layer. Our model unveils a strong equatorially symmetric zonal flow (O(100) m s−1) and a weaker antisymmetric zonal flow (O(1) m s−1) beneath the cloud-level winds. Furthermore, we show that the maximum depth of the deep zonal flow is around 7800 km, surpassing previous results derived from gravity alone and with the assumption that the rapid cloud-level winds extend deep into the planet’s interior. The meridional profile of the deep zonal flow differs significantly from the cloud-level zonal winds and predicts a strong westward zonal flow in the region with latitude around ± 23○, where the observed cloud-top winds remain eastward. We also demonstrate the zonal flow inside and outside the tangent cylinder exhibits significant differences in speed and scale. Moreover, our findings suggest that the coupling between the deep zonal flow and cloud-level winds varies across latitudes, with the shallow-wind model applicable to polar regions within the tangent cylinder and the deep-wind model more relevant to equatorial regions outside the tangent cylinder. Our findings highlight the importance of accounting for the planet’s deep zonal flow in future studies of Saturn’s atmospheric dynamics.

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