A 3D Microphysical Model of Titan's Methane Clouds


Scientific paper

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Scientific paper

A time-dependent idealized model for Titan's methane clouds is described. We use the newly developed TitanWRF multiscale model, run as a mesoscale model with periodic boundary conditions in the horizontal and with simple microphysics included. It calculates the amount of nitrogen dissolved in liquid methane, and the amount of methane condensed at a particular temperature and pressure based on recent experiments and thermodynamic models. Data from the thermodynamic model of Kouvaris et al. 1991 provides saturation criteria, composition of condensate, and latent heat for a given pressure-temperature profile. For altitudes lower than 14 km, when methane becomes saturated it condenses into its liquid phase. However for altitudes from 14 km to the tropopause, methane is changed into a supercooled liquid state. By running TitanWRF in 1D mode, we have explored the effects of varying the initial profiles of methane vapor mass mixing ratio and liquid mole fraction. Changing the former affects the amount of cloud produced, while changing the latter affects the cloud's location (as does temperature). We then used the set-up most consistent with observations as the initial condition for our 3D model, and included topography in the form of a `cosine ridge’ placed at the center of the model domain. This is added to produce lifting in the model, without which condensation is unlikely to occur due to the low relative humidity and the lapse rate at Titan's surface (Samuelson et al. 1997). Our study predicts the abundance and duration of methane clouds produced as air passes over this obstacle, and demonstrates that vertical motion may well be a major cause of convective clouds in Titan's troposphere. In future work we will begin using a size-resolved microphysical scheme to provide more insight into the nature of Titan's methane cycle.

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