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A physical model of Titan's clouds

Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/0019-1035(80)90173-6
  • Chemistry


Abstract We have constructed a model of the physical processes controlling Titan's clouds. Our model produces clouds that qualitatively match the present observational constraints in a wide variety of model atmospheres, including those with low atmospheric pressures (25 mbar) and high atmospheric pressures. We find the following: (1) high atmospheric temperatures (160°K) are important so that there is a large scale height in the first few optical depths of cloud; (2) the aerosol mass production occurs at very low aerosol optical depth so that the cloud particles do not directly affect the photochemistry producing them; (3) the production rate of aerosol mass by chemical processes is probably greater than 3.5 × 10 −14 g cm −2 sec −1; (4) and the eddy diffusion coefficient is less than 5 × 10 6 cm 2 sec −1 except perhaps in the top optical depth of the cloud. Our model is not extremely sensitive to particle shape, but it is sensitive to particle density. Higher particle densities require larger aerosol mass production rates to produce satisfactory clouds. Particle densities of unity require a mass production rate on the order of 3.5 × 10 −13 g cm −2 sec −1. We also show that an increase in mass input causes a decrease in the mean particle size, as required by J. B. Pollack et al. (1980, Geophys. Res. Lett. 7, 829–832), to explain the observed correlation between the solar cycle and Titan's albedo; that coagulation need not be extremely inefficient in order to obtain realistic clouds as proposed by M. Podolak and E. Podolak (1980, Icarus 43, 73–83); that coagulation could be inefficient due to photoelectric charging of the particles; and, that the lifetime of particles near the altitude of unit optical depth is a few months, as required to explain the temporal variability observed by S. T. Suess and G. W. Lockwood and D. P. Cruikshank and J. S. Morgan (1979, Bull. Amer. Astron. Soc. 11, 564). Although Titan's aerosols are ottically thick in the vertical direction, the atmosphere is so extended that the horizontal visibility is greater than that found anywhere at Earth's surface.

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