Europlanet Science Congress 2020
Virtual meeting
21 September – 9 October 2020
Europlanet Science Congress 2020
Virtual meeting
21 September – 9 October 2020
EPSC Abstracts
Vol. 14, EPSC2020-872, 2020
Europlanet Science Congress 2020
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Temperature, chemical species and wind distributions in the middle atmosphere of Titan from late northern spring to early summer

Sandrine Vinatier1, Christophe Mathé2,1, Bruno Bézard1, Jan Vatant d'Ollone3,4, Sébastien Lebonnois4, Cyril Dauphin5, F. Mike Flasar6, Rich K. Achterberg6, Benoît Seignovert7, Melody Sylvestre8, Nick Teanby8, Nicolas Gorius6, Andrei Mamoutkine9, Ever Guandique10, and Don Jennings6
Sandrine Vinatier et al.
  • 1LESIA, Observatoire de Paris, Université PSL, CNRS, Sorbonne Université, Université de Paris, 5 place Jules Janssen, 92195 Meudon, France (
  • 2LATMOS IPSL, Sorbonne Université, UVSQ Paris-Saclay, CNRS, Paris, France
  • 3School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Leicester, University Road, Leicester, LE1 7RH, UK
  • 4Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique (LMD/IPSL), Sorbonne Université, ENS, PSL Research University, Ecole Polytechnique, IP Paris, CNRS, 4 Place Jussieu, 75252 Paris Cedex 05, France
  • 5Institut Villebon - Georges Charpak, Bat. 490, rue Hector Berlioz, Université Paris-Saclay, 91400 Orsay, France
  • 6NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, Code 693, Greenbelt, MD 20771, USA
  • 7Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91109, USA
  • 8School of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol, Wills Memorial Building, Queen’s Road, Bristol BS8 1 RJ, UK
  • 9Department of Astronomy, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, USA
  • 10ADNET Systems, Inc., Bethesda, Maryland 20817, USA

We present a study of the seasonal evolution of Titan’s thermal field and distributions of haze, C2H2, C2H4, C2H6, CH3C2H, C3H8, C4H2, C6H6, HCN and HC3N from March 2015 (Ls = 66°) to September 2017 (Ls = 93°), i.e. from the last third of northern spring to early summer. We analyzed thermal emission of Titan’s atmosphere acquired by the Cassini Composite Infrared Spectrometer (CIRS) with limb and nadir geometry to retrieve the stratospheric and mesospheric temperature and mixing ratios pole-to-pole meridional cross sections from 5 mbar to 50 μbar (120-650 km).

The southern stratopause varied in a complex way and showed a global temperature increase from 2015 to 2017 at high-southern latitudes. Stratospheric southern polar temperatures, which were observed to be as small as 120 K in early 2015 due to the polar night, showed a 30-K increase (at 0.5 mbar) from March 2015 to May 2017 due to adiabatic heating in the subsiding branch of the global overturning circulation. All photochemical compounds were enriched at the South Pole by this subsidence. Polar cross sections of these enhanced species, which are good tracers of the global dynamics, highlighted changes in the structure of the southern polar vortex. These high enhancements combined with the unusually low temperatures (<120 K) of the deep stratosphere resulted in condensation at the South Pole between 0.1 and 0.03 mbar (240-280 km) of HCN, HC3N, C6H6 and possibly C4H2 in March 2015 (Ls = 66°). These molecules were observed to condense deeper further away from the South Pole.

At high-northern latitudes, stratospheric enrichments remaining from the winter were observed below 300 km between 2015 and May 2017 (Ls = 90°) for all chemical compounds and up to September 2017 (Ls = 93°) for C2H2, C2H4, CH3C2H, C3H8, C4H2. In September 2017, these local enhancements were less pronounced than earlier for C2H2, C4H2, CH3C2H, HC3N, HCN and no longer observed for C2H6 and C6H6, which suggests a change of the northern polar dynamics near the summer solstice. These enhancements observed during the entire spring may be due to confinement of this enriched air by a small remaining winter circulation cell that persisted in the low stratosphere up to the northern summer solstice, according to predictions of the Institut Pierre Simon Laplace Titan Global Climate Model (IPSL Titan GCM).

In the mesosphere, we derived a depleted layer in C2H2, HCN and C2H6 from the North Pole to mid-southern latitudes, while C4H2, C3H4, C2H4 and HC3N seem to have been enriched in the same region. In the deep stratosphere, all molecules except C2H4 were depleted due to their condensation sink located deeper than 5 mbar outside the southern polar vortex. HCN, C4H2 and CH3C2H VMR cross section contours showed steep slopes near mid-latitudes or close to the equator, which can be explained by upwelling air in this region. Upwelling is also supported by the cross section of C2H4 (the only molecule not condensing among those studied here) volume mixing ratio observed in the northern hemisphere.

We derived the zonal wind velocity up to mesospheric levels from the retrieved thermal field. We show that zonal winds were faster and more confined around the South Pole in 2015 (Ls = 67 - 72°) than later. In 2016, the polar zonal wind speed decreased while the fastest winds had migrated toward low-southern latitudes.

How to cite: Vinatier, S., Mathé, C., Bézard, B., Vatant d'Ollone, J., Lebonnois, S., Dauphin, C., Flasar, F. M., Achterberg, R. K., Seignovert, B., Sylvestre, M., Teanby, N., Gorius, N., Mamoutkine, A., Guandique, E., and Jennings, D.: Temperature, chemical species and wind distributions in the middle atmosphere of Titan from late northern spring to early summer, Europlanet Science Congress 2020, online, 21 Sep–9 Oct 2020, EPSC2020-872,, 2020.