On Titan Weather Report Brings Chance of Methane Rain

Scientists have used models to help predict Earth‘s weather for years, and now they are using similar simulations to forecast rain on Saturn‘s biggest moon Titan. According to scientists the study may help explain features such as rivers, lakes and clouds of methane on Titan, and could predict future changes. To better understand the weather and climate of Titan, scientists created 3D atmospheric simulations of its methane cycle based on circulation models originally designed for Earth. These new computer models revealed that in areas closer to Titan‘s equator, rare but intense storms apparently occur around the equinoxes, when days and nights on Titan are of equal length and the summer and winter poles trade places.

This reversal often generates atmospheric instabilities, leading to storms capable of carving riverlike features. The simulations also hint that lakes form near the poles on Titan due to accumulation of cold-trapped methane. This happens preferentially in the north, which has a longer rainy season, Saturn‘s oval-shaped orbit means that Saturn happens to be further from the sun when Titan is experiencing summer in the north. In addition, the models suggest clouds form primarily in mid- and high-latitudes of the hemisphere where summer is taking place on Titan. Upcoming space- and ground-based observations of Titan might confirm or reject predictions made by these models.