Belt-Zone Circulation on Jovian Planets

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  • 0:02 Bands on Jovian Planets
  • 0:36 Belt-Zone Circulation
  • 2:18 How the Planets Compare
  • 3:00 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson explores the concept of belt-zone circulation in the Jovian planets of our solar system as well as why it occurs and what the differences between bands and zones are. A short quiz follows after the video.

The Bands on the Jovian Planets

Sort of like rainbows have distinct bands of colors, some of the planets in our solar system also contain quite spectacular bands running from left to right. These planets are the four Jovian planets, which are the four outer planets of the solar system (that is to say, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune). They have hydrogen atmospheres filled with clouds. Most impressively, on Jupiter, these clouds form distinct shapes and patterns. In this lesson, we'll delve into what these regions are called and why they occur.

Belt-Zone Circulation

Jupiter's upper atmosphere is clearly divided into parallel striations found at different latitudes. These striations are of different colors because they have slightly different chemical compositions, and they have slight temperature differences between them.

This kind of reminds me of the Meeting of the Waters near Manaus in Brazil. Here, two branches of water have two different colors because of the difference in the chemical compositions between them. When the two branches meet, they initially stay separated thanks to this, as well as their temperature differences.

Anyways, the lighter colored bands in the Jovian planets are called zones, and the darker colored bands are called belts. Since most belts you wear are probably darker in color, it'll be easy to remember which one is which.

The atmospheric circulation that results in the formation of zones and belts on Jovian planets is known as belt-zone circulation. This circulation is driven by pressure differences and the process of convection, where hot gas or liquid rises up, cools and then sinks back down just like in boiling water.

Temperature measurements have shown that the dark belts are hotter than the lighter colored zones. This implies that the belts are lower in the planet's atmosphere than the zones.

Additionally, high winds circulate near the high pressure areas (zones) and the low pressure areas (belts). This helps explain the cool animation on the screen (please see the video at 02:17).

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