Winds and Jet Streams in the Atmosphere

Features seen in Jupiter's atmosphere are not stationary, but drift with the currents and jet streams they are associated with. While the study of Jupiter's atmospheric dynamics is a whole discipline in itself, some understanding of Jupiter's atmospheric systems can aid the amateur in the study of Jupiter. When the drift rate of a certain feature is known along with its apparent latitudinal position, its association with a particular jet stream or current can be specified with some certainty. This knowledge will allow a prediction of its future position over time, allowing for the recovery and identification of the feature with some certainty following the end of an apparition or following a period of bad weather when there has been a lapse in observations. In more than one instance, the determination of the type of feature in a belt or zone was finally settled only after its drift rate had been determined and compared with historical data for the region being observed.

There are a number of currents and jet streams in Jupiter's atmosphere, some of which can only be observed by spacecraft. Here we will concentrate only on the ones that can be monitored visually. Following is a discussion of various jet streams and currents after Rogers, 1995 (Fig. 3.30).

The currents that can be monitored by visual observers fall into three categories. There is the great equatorial current, which encompasses the entire equatorial region. This current pro-grades, or moves in increasing longitude, at 7-8° per day, relative to System II. There are the nine slow currents, which govern most of the visible features outside the equatorial region, and have speeds of no more than 1° per day. And, there are the jet streams on the edges of certain belts, only observed

SSTBn jet STBn jet


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