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Convection behind the Humidification of Titan's Stratosphere

Abstract : On Titan, methane is responsible for the complex prebiotic chemistry, the global haze, most of the cloud cover, and the rainfall that models the landscape. Its sources are located in liquid reservoirs at and below the surface, and its sink is the photodissociation at high altitude. Titan's present and past climates strongly depend on the connection between the surface sources and the atmosphere upper layers. Despite its importance, very little information is available on this topic. In this work, we reanalyze two solar occultations made by Cassini before the northern spring equinox. We find a layer rich in methane at 165 km and at 70°S (mixing ratio 1.62% ± 0.1%) and a dryer background stratosphere (1.1%-1.2%). In the absence of local production, this reveals an intrusion of methane transported into the stratosphere by convective circulation. On the other hand, methane transport through the tropopause at a global scale appears quite inhibited. Leaking through the tropopause is an important bottleneck of Titan's methane cycle at all timescales. As such, it affects the long-term evolution of Titan's atmosphere and the exchange fluxes with the surface and subsurface reservoirs in a complex way. Global climate models accounting for cloud physics, thermodynamical feedbacks, and convection are needed to understand the methane cycle, and specifically the humidification of the stratosphere, at the present time, and its evolution under changing conditions at a geological timescale.
Keywords : 1244 2184 2120
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Submitted on : Tuesday, July 19, 2022 - 8:01:57 AM
Last modification on : Wednesday, August 3, 2022 - 3:59:26 AM

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P. Rannou, M. Coutelier, E. Rivière, S. Lebonnois, M. Rey, et al.. Convection behind the Humidification of Titan's Stratosphere. The Astrophysical Journal, 2021, 922, ⟨10.3847/1538-4357/ac2904⟩. ⟨insu-03726932⟩

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