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Torrential Rains on Titan

4 Feb 2013, 11:18 UTC
Torrential Rains on Titan
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Figure 1: Bright tropospheric clouds on Titan. Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute.The thick nitrogen atmosphere of Titan supports a methane hydrological cycle that is akin to Earth’s water cycle. Like the Earth, precipitation and storm activity appear to be quite common on Titan. On Titan’s surface, numerous fluvial features point towards a hydrology based on liquid methane. Much of Titan’s surface is kept wet by a light but persistent drizzle of liquid methane which forms an enduring component of Titan’s methane hydrological cycle. Data collected by the Huygens entry probe during the descend through Titan’s atmosphere in January 2005 suggests the presence of an upper cloud layer of methane ice between 20 km to 30 km and a lower cloud layer of liquid methane-nitrogen between roughly 8 km to 16 km. The upper cloud layer of methane ice is akin to terrestrial cirrostratus clouds while the lower cloud layer of liquid methane-nitrogen is akin to terrestrial stratiform clouds. A gap between the upper and lower cloud layers exists because that region is too cold to sustain liquid clouds, but slightly too dry for pure methane to condense.Since the upper cloud layer of methane ice is at saturation (100 percent relative humidity), ...

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