Seasonal variations in Titan's middle atmosphere during the northern spring derived from Cassini/CIRS observations

Sandrine Vinatier*, Bruno Bézard, Sébastien Lebonnois, Nick A. Teanby, Richard K. Achterberg, Nicolas Gorius, Andrei Mamoutkine, Ever Guandique, Antoine Jolly, Donalds E. Jennings, F. Michael Flasar

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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We analyzed spectra acquired at the limb of Titan in the 2006-2013 period by the Cassini/Composite Infrared Spectrometer (CIRS) in order to monitor the seasonal evolution of the thermal, gas composition and aerosol spatial distributions. We are primarily interested here in the seasonal changes after the northern spring equinox and interpret our results in term of global circulation seasonal changes. Data cover the 600-1500cm-1 spectral range at a resolution of 0.5 or 15.5cm-1 and probe the 150-500km vertical range with a vertical resolution of about 30km. Retrievals of the limb spectra acquired at 15.5cm-1 resolution allowed us to derive eight global maps of temperature, aerosols and C2H2,C2H6 and HCN molecular mixing ratios between July 2009 and May 2013. In order to have a better understanding of the global changes taking place after the northern spring equinox, we analyzed 0.5cm-1 resolution limb spectra to infer the mixing ratio profiles of 10 molecules for some latitudes. These profiles are compared with CIRS observations performed during the northern winter. Our observations are compatible with the coexistence of two circulation cells upwelling at mid-latitudes and downwelling at both poles from at last January 2010 to at least June 2010. One year later, in June 2011, there are indications that the global circulation had reversed compared to the winter situation, with a single pole-to-pole cell upwelling at the north pole and downwelling at the south pole. Our observations show that in December 2011, this new pole-to-pole cell has settled with a downward velocity of 4.4mm/s at 450km above the south pole. Therefore, in about two years after the equinox, the global circulation observed during the northern winter has totally reversed, which is in agreement with the predictions of general circulation models. We observe a sudden unexpected temperature decrease above the south pole in February 2012, which is probably related to the strong enhancement of molecular gas in this region, acting as radiative coolers. In July and November 2012, we observe a detached haze layer located around 320-330km, which is comparable to the altitude of the detached haze layer observed by the Cassini Imaging Science Subsystem (ISS) in the UV.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-115
Number of pages21
Early online date4 Dec 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2015


  • Atmospheres, composition
  • Atmospheres, structure
  • Infrared observations
  • Titan, atmosphere

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