Europlanet Science Congress 2022
Palacio de Congresos de Granada, Spain
18 – 23 September 2022
Europlanet Science Congress 2022
Palacio de Congresos de Granada, Spain
18 September – 23 September 2022
EPSC Abstracts
Vol. 16, EPSC2022-761, 2022
Europlanet Science Congress 2022
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Exploring the Depth of Planetary-Scale Changes in Jupiter from Juno Microwave Radiometer Observations

Glenn Orton1, Leigh Fletcher2, Fabiano Oyafuso1, Cheng Li3, Zhimeng Zhang4, Shawn Brueshaber, Michael H. Wong5, Thomas Momary1, Steven Levin1, Scott Bolton6, Kevin Baines1, Emma Dahl1, and James Sinclair1
Glenn Orton et al.
  • 1Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, United States of America (
  • 2University of Leicester, Leicester, UK
  • 3University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA
  • 4California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, USA
  • 5SETI Institute, Mountain View, CA, USA
  • 6Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio, TX, USA

The Juno Microwave Radiometer (MWR) has extended our knowledge of the structure and composition of Jupiter's atmosphere down to several hundred bars, revealing meridional variability at great depths (e.g. Li et al. 2017, Fletcher et al. 2021). It has revealed that some cyclonic and anticyclonic vortices may have roots at depths of hundreds of bars of pressure (Bolton et al. 2022), but 5-µm hot spots and associated plumes are restricted to shallow depths above the water cloud (Fletcher et al. 2021). We report ongoing work on evolution of axisymmetric bands, concentrating on two regions where large-scale changes have been observed in the visible and infrared.

One of these is the Equatorial Zone (EZ), for which Figure 1 illustrates a dramatic color change. The color change in the central component (EZc, ~3°S – 1°N, planetocentric latitude) is more prominent than the northern component (EZn, ~2° - 6°N).  This change began in 2018, and by 2019 was as prominent as shown in 2021. In near-infrared bands of strong gaseous absorption, the EZc reflectivity increased dramatically (Fig. 2), but only temporarily for the EZn.

Another region is the northern component of the North Equatorial Belt (NEBn, ~12°N to 15°N), whose change from a visibly dark to a bright region is also illustrated in Figure 1, with the southern component (NEBs, ~7°N to 11°N) remaining its typical dark color.  Figure 3 shows that this color is associated with a remarkable drop of its 5-µm brightness which dropped down to the faint emissions of the nearby cloudy and visually bright zones. This implies a major increase in the opacity of 0.7-5 bar clouds that are similar but more extreme than the quasi-periodic northward expansions of the NEB (Fletcher et al. 2017). This transformation took place in early 2021 when Jupiter was in solar conjunction.

The very preliminary results of our initial examination of MWR observations (Fig. 4) plot antenna temperatures derived using averages over all longitudes sensed in which the center of the field of view lay within specified latitude ranges. Observations were selected only if 99% or more of the field of view included the planet and the emission angle was limited to 65° or less, after which they were converted to a nadir-equivalent emission using limb-darkening models that were fit to every latitude and each channel. All observations were made at close approaches of the spacecraft to Jupiter, known as ‘perijoves’ or PJs. Many perijoves between 2019 and 2022 did not contain any measurements of these regions meeting those selection criteria, due to unfavorable spacecraft pointing. Exceptions included special spacecraft orientations.    

The EZc appears invariable in time, but the EZn underwent a ~7K drop in Channel-3 antenna temperatures - sensitive to conditions near ~9 bars - starting in early 2017, reaching a minimum in late 2017, then returning to its original values by early 2019.  Similar variability is evident in Channel 4, sensitive to the ~3-bar level, and a smaller one in Channel 5, which is sensitive to the ~1.5-bar level.  No change is detectable in Channel 6, sensitive to the ~0.7-bar level. The 2017 temperature drop has no obvious counterpart in reflected sunlight, although its “recovery” occurs during the reflectivity changes in 2019 (Figs. 1-2). To link the two, one must devise a causal relationship between a short-lived variation of absorber, likely gaseous ammonia, at 1.5-9 bars at 2016-2019 between 2°N and 6°N, and conditions at higher altitudes over a wider latitude range.

If the NEBn variability between 2020 and 2021 (Figs. 1, 3) implies an increase of ammonia absorption, we would expect a decrease in antenna temperatures between our last trustworthy observation in 2019 April and observations in late 2021. This is indeed the case at 0.7 bars, represented by the 6-7K drop in Channel-6 antenna temperatures for the NEBn. This is also present in Channel 5 as a ~5K drop, but it is not detectable above the noise in the deeper-sounding channels, so this is not substantially present at pressures higher than ~1.5 bars. A ~5K drop in antenna temperatures in late 2016 is followed by a slower rise to its previous range by the end of 2017 in both Channels 5 and 6. Other channels do not show this variability, so this is another “shallow” phenomenon with no obvious connection to changes in cloud reflectivity.

We will continue to examine variability in cloud reflectivity associated with these changes,  observe with increasingly favorable geometries for the next few perijoves, and examine other latitudes for variability.


Bolton, et al. 2021. Science 374, 968-972.

Fletcher, et al. 2017. Geophys. Res. Lett. 44, 7140-7148

Fletcher, et al. 2020. J. Geophys. Res. 125, E06399.

Fletcher, et al. 2021. J. Geophys. Res. 126, E06858.

Li, et al. 2017. G. Res. Lett. 44, 5317-5325.

Simon, et al. 2015. Ap. J. 812, 55.


Figure 1. Color-composite cylindrical maps of Jupiter from the Hubble Space Telescope OPAL program (Simon et al. 2015). Note the darkening of the EZ central and northern components, which began in 2018. Note also that in 2021 the northern part of the North Equatorial Belt has become lighter in color compared with 2017, a process that took place in early 2021.


Figure 2. Reflectivity of the central and northern components of the Equatorial Zone vs time at 2.166 µm, a wavelength sensitive to reflected sunlight from ~80-mbar aerosols. This plot implies that the EZn contained a denser population of aerosols near this level, most likely from more vigorous lofting.


Figure 3. Images of Jupiter at 5.1 µm: these and data in Fig. 2 were taken using NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF) SpeX guide camera. Note the drop in radiance of the northern section of the North Equatorial Belt from 2020 to 2021.


Figure 4. Preliminary results on radiances measured by Juno’s Microwave Radiometer (MWR). Channels 3 and 6 sense radiances at 2.6 and 22 GHz, respectively. For clarity, other channels are not shown. Error bars represent the standard deviation of antenna temperatures included in the latitude bin.




How to cite: Orton, G., Fletcher, L., Oyafuso, F., Li, C., Zhang, Z., Brueshaber, S., Wong, M. H., Momary, T., Levin, S., Bolton, S., Baines, K., Dahl, E., and Sinclair, J.: Exploring the Depth of Planetary-Scale Changes in Jupiter from Juno Microwave Radiometer Observations, Europlanet Science Congress 2022, Granada, Spain, 18–23 Sep 2022, EPSC2022-761,, 2022.


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