Friday, March 18, 2011

What do April showers on Titan bring?

Scientists report, for the first time, that they have observed precipitation of methane over the equatorial region of Titan, Saturn’s largest moon. Clouds and rain have been reported on Titan before (see our previous coverage, linked below), but precipitation has only been observed over the poles, not in the equatorial region. That area is covered in dunes and is quite arid, which is unlike Earth’s tropical equatorial climate.

The difference between Titan’s and Earth’s climates at the equator can be explained by the seasonal swing of the intertropical convergence zone, where the surface winds from the northern and southern hemispheres meet and cause rainfall. On Earth, the intertropical convergence zone is confined to the tropics. However, Titan has a slower planetary rotation, allowing the intertropical convergence zone to move almost completely from pole to pole.

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Bianca Kajlich Giulianna Ramirez Ashley Greene April Scott

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