Toward Understanding Polar Heat Transport Enhancement in Subglacial Oceans on Icy Moons

Robert Hartmann*, Richard J.A.M. Stevens, Detlef Lohse, Roberto Verzicco*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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The interior oceans of several icy moons are considered as affected by rotation. Observations suggest a larger heat transport around the poles than at the equator. Rotating Rayleigh-Bénard convection (RRBC) in planar configuration can show an enhanced heat transport compared to the non-rotating case within this “rotation-affected” regime. We investigate the potential for such a (polar) heat transport enhancement in these subglacial oceans by direct numerical simulations of RRBC in spherical geometry for Ra = 106 and 0.7 ≤ Pr ≤ 4.38. We find an enhancement up to 28% in the “polar tangent cylinder,” which is globally compensated by a reduced heat transport at low latitudes. As a result, the polar heat transport can exceed the equatorial by up to 50%. The enhancement is mostly insensitive to different radial gravity profiles, but decreases for thinner shells. In general, polar heat transport and its enhancement in spherical RRBC follow the same principles as in planar RRBC.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2023GL105401
JournalGeophysical research letters
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 16 Feb 2024


  • direct numerical simulations
  • heat transfer
  • Jovian
  • rotating flows
  • Saturnian satellites
  • thermal convection
  • Turbulence


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