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Deep Clouds on Jupiter

Center for Integrative Planetary Science, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA
Carl Sagan Center for Research, SETI Institute, Mountain View, CA 94043, USA
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Code 693, Greenbelt, MD 20771, USA
Gemini Observatory, NSF’s NOIRLab, Hilo, HI 96720, USA
Columbia Astrophysics Laboratory, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027, USA
American Museum of Natural History, New York, NY 10024, USA
Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91109, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Remote Sens. 2023, 15(3), 702;
Received: 22 November 2022 / Revised: 23 December 2022 / Accepted: 11 January 2023 / Published: 25 January 2023
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Remote Sensing Observations of the Giant Planets)


Jupiter’s atmospheric water abundance is a highly important cosmochemical parameter that is linked to processes of planetary formation, weather, and circulation. Remote sensing and in situ measurement attempts still leave room for substantial improvements to our knowledge of Jupiter’s atmospheric water abundance. With the motivation to advance our understanding of water in Jupiter’s atmosphere, we investigate observations and models of deep clouds. We discuss deep clouds in isolated convective storms (including a unique storm site in the North Equatorial Belt that episodically erupted in 2021–2022), cyclonic vortices, and northern high-latitude regions, as seen in Hubble Space Telescope visible/near-infrared imaging data. We evaluate the imaging data in continuum and weak methane band (727 nm) filters by comparison with radiative transfer simulations, 5 micron imaging (Gemini), and 5 micron spectroscopy (Keck), and conclude that the weak methane band imaging approach mostly detects variation in the upper cloud and haze opacity, although sensitivity to deeper cloud layers can be exploited if upper cloud/haze opacity can be separately constrained. The cloud-base water abundance is a function of cloud-base temperature, which must be estimated by extrapolating 0.5-bar observed temperatures downward to the condensation region near 5 bar. For a given cloud base pressure, the largest source of uncertainty on the local water abundance comes from the temperature gradient used for the extrapolation. We conclude that spatially resolved spectra to determine cloud heights—collected simultaneously with spatially-resolved mid-infrared spectra to determine 500-mbar temperatures and with improved lapse rate estimates—would be needed to answer the following very challenging question: Can observations of deep water clouds on Jupiter be used to constrain the atmospheric water abundance?
Keywords: Jupiter; atmosphere; Hubble Space Telescope observations; infrared observations; radiative transfer; meteorology; atmospheres structure; atmospheres chemistry; atmospheres composition; abundances Jupiter; atmosphere; Hubble Space Telescope observations; infrared observations; radiative transfer; meteorology; atmospheres structure; atmospheres chemistry; atmospheres composition; abundances

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MDPI and ACS Style

Wong, M.H.; Bjoraker, G.L.; Goullaud, C.; Stephens, A.W.; Luszcz-Cook, S.H.; Atreya, S.K.; de Pater, I.; Brown, S.T. Deep Clouds on Jupiter. Remote Sens. 2023, 15, 702.

AMA Style

Wong MH, Bjoraker GL, Goullaud C, Stephens AW, Luszcz-Cook SH, Atreya SK, de Pater I, Brown ST. Deep Clouds on Jupiter. Remote Sensing. 2023; 15(3):702.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Wong, Michael H., Gordon L. Bjoraker, Charles Goullaud, Andrew W. Stephens, Statia H. Luszcz-Cook, Sushil K. Atreya, Imke de Pater, and Shannon T. Brown. 2023. "Deep Clouds on Jupiter" Remote Sensing 15, no. 3: 702.

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