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An extended layer of stable stratification in Saturn’s molecular envelope

Presentation #302.03 in the session Giant Planet Interior Structure and Dynamics (Oral Presentation)

Published onOct 23, 2023
An extended layer of stable stratification in Saturn’s molecular envelope

A recent study of the effect of rotational oscillation modes of Saturn on its C ring (Friedson et al. 2023) suggests that an extensive layer of stable stratification exists in the molecular envelope, centered near the depth where the zonal winds are magnetically damped within the semiconducting region. The existence of such a layer challenges the traditional model of a fully convective molecular envelope; since it is stable to small-scale turbulent convection, heat would have to be transported through it by a different mechanism. We review the circumstantial evidence for a stable layer in the molecular envelope and examine some alternatives to small-scale convection for the radial heat transport. Possible alternatives to consider include transport by large-scale eddies or meridional cells driven by ohmic heating in the semiconducting region, or transport by layered convection if the static stability arises from a compositional gradient. Scaling arguments will be presented to assess the feasibility of these mechanisms and any implications they may have for episodicity in the release of internal heat from Saturn.

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