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Layered semi-convection and tides in giant planet interiors - II. Tidal dissipation

By Q André, S Mathis and AJ Barker


Context. Recent Juno observations have suggested that the heavy elements in Jupiter could be diluted throughout a large fraction of its gaseous envelope, providing a stabilising compositional gradient over an extended region of the planet. This could trigger layered semi-convection, which, in the context of giant planets more generally, may explain Saturn’s luminosity excess and play a role in causing the abnormally large radii of some hot Jupiters. In giant planet interiors, it could take the form of density staircases, which are convective layers separated by thin stably stratified interfaces. In addition, the efficiency of tidal dissipation is known to depend strongly on the planetary internal structure. Aims. We aim to study the resulting tidal dissipation when internal waves are excited in a region of layered semi-convection by tidal gravitational forcing due to other bodies (such as moons in giant planet systems, or stars in hot Jupiter systems). Methods. We adopt a local Cartesian model with a background layered density profile subjected to an imposed tidal forcing, and we compute the viscous and thermal dissipation rates numerically. We consider two sets of boundary conditions in the vertical direction: periodic boundaries and impenetrable, stress-free boundaries, with periodic conditions in the horizontal directions in each case. These models are appropriate for studying the forcing of short-wavelength tidal waves in part of a region of layered semi-convection, and in an extended envelope containing layered semi-convection, respectively. Results. We find that the rates of tidal dissipation can be enhanced in a region of layered semi-convection compared to a uniformly convective medium, where the latter corresponds with the usual assumption adopted in giant planet interior models. In particular, a region of layered semi-convection possesses a richer set of resonances, allowing enhanced dissipation for a wider range of tidal frequencies. The details of these results significantly depend on the structural properties of the layered semi-convective regions. Conclusions. Layered semi-convection could contribute towards explaining the high tidal dissipation rates observed in Jupiter and Saturn, which have not yet been fully explained by theory. Further work is required to explore the efficiency of this mechanism in global models

Publisher: 'EDP Sciences'
Year: 2019
DOI identifier: 10.1051/0004-6361/201833674
OAI identifier:

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