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Emoticons for Teaching Jupiter’s Belts, Zones, and Spots

Presentation #410.10 in the session “Education and Community Engagement”.

Published onOct 03, 2021
Emoticons for Teaching Jupiter’s Belts, Zones, and Spots

Jupiter’s famous belts, zones, and spots provide an opportunity for teaching fundamental aspects of atmospheric science intuitively via emoticons, without using equations or introducing terrestrial biases. The emoticon for an anticyclonic lens, a ubiquitous vortex structure found in oceanography (e.g. meddies) and planetary science (e.g. the Great Red Spot), is: | ( | , where the curves are the altitudes of constant pressure surfaces, the left and right (upper and lower) ones indicate the tropopause and the bottom of the lens, respectively, and the curved middle one indicates a high-pressure anomaly. Students intuitively understand that: i) thickness is proportional to temperature, without seeing or deriving the hypsometric equation, and ii) the top half of an anticyclonic lens is cold-core and the bottom half is warm-core, without seeing or deriving the thermal-wind equation. The corresponding emoticon for a cyclonic lens is: | ) | , with a warm-core top half and a cold-core bottom half. The related emoticons for a cloudy, anticyclonic zone and a clear, cyclonic belt are: |*( ( ( and | ) ) ) , where the repeated deep layers indicate deeply rooted jet streams. The zeroth-order act of constructing these to fit under the tropopause reveals why zones are cloudy, as indicated by the asterisk, and belts are clear. In particular, no upwelling or downwelling (secondary circulation) is implied by the locations of Jupiter’s clouds, which is arguably one of the most widespread misconceptions in planetary science.


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