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Titan’s climate patterns and surface methane distribution due to the coupling of land hydrology and atmosphere
Nature Astronomy ( IF 10.500 ) Pub Date : 2019-12-09 , DOI: 10.1038/s41550-019-0963-0
Sean P. Faulk, Juan M. Lora, Jonathan L. Mitchell, P. C. D. Milly

Planetary surfaces beyond Earth’s are impacted by surface hydrology, and exhibit fluvial and lacustrine features. Titan in particular harbours a rich hydroclimate replete with valley networks, lakes, seas and putative wetlands, all of which are pronounced in the lower-elevation polar regions. However, understanding of Titan’s global climate has heretofore neglected the hydraulic influence of Titan’s large-scale topography. Here we add a surface hydrology model to an existing Titan atmospheric model, and find that infiltration, groundmethane evaporation, and surface and subsurface flow are fundamental to simultaneously reproducing Titan’s observed surface liquid distribution and other aspects of its climate system. We propose that Titan’s climate features infiltration into unsaturated low- and mid-latitude highlands and surface or subsurface flow into high-latitude basins, producing the observed polar moist climes and equatorial deserts. This result implies that a potentially massive unobserved methane reservoir participates in Titan’s methane cycle. It also illustrates the importance of surface hydrology in Titan climate models, and by extension suggests the influence of surface hydrology in idealized models of other planetary climates, including the climates and palaeoclimates of Earth, Mars and exoplanets.
更新日期:2019-12-11

 

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