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Open AccessArticle

Topographic Effects on Titan’s Dune-Forming Winds

Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309, USA
Now at Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
Atmosphere 2019, 10(10), 600;
Received: 16 August 2019 / Revised: 25 September 2019 / Accepted: 1 October 2019 / Published: 3 October 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Modeling and Simulation of Planetary Atmospheres)
The Cassini mission made an unexpected discovery when it found evidence of linear dune fields on Titan’s surface. The orientation of the dunes and their interaction with topography allow scientists to estimate the dominant wind direction on the surface of Titan. There is some consensus in the community that the dune-forming winds must be net westerly, however, there is an active debate about the dune-forming wind regime. This debate has been guided by several studies of Earth dune fields considered analogous to the Titan dunes including those in Namibia, the Sahara, the Serengeti, and China. Complicating this active debate about the surface wind regime is the fact that global circulation models (GCMs) have historically not been able to reproduce westerly surface winds in the tropics. Here we use the Titan Community Atmosphere Model (CAM) to quantify the impact of topography and an added torque on Titan’s dune-forming winds. Dunes tend to form at higher elevations on Titan, and adding topography to the model alters the near-surface wind directions, making them more westerly and consistent with the dune orientations. The addition of topography and added torque create a wind regime that is consistent with linear dunes in areas of stabilized sediment. View Full-Text
Keywords: planetary atmospheres; atmospheric modeling; surface winds; topography planetary atmospheres; atmospheric modeling; surface winds; topography
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Larson, E.J.L. Topographic Effects on Titan’s Dune-Forming Winds. Atmosphere 2019, 10, 600.

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