Moist Convection in the Giant Planet Atmospheres

Csaba Palotai, Shawn Brueshaber, Ramanakumar Sankar, Kunio Sayanagi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The outer planets of our Solar System display a myriad of interesting cloud features, of different colors and sizes. The differences between the types of observed clouds suggest a complex interplay between the dynamics and chemistry at play in these atmospheres. Particularly, the stark difference between the banded structures of Jupiter and Saturn vs. the sporadic clouds on the ice giants highlights the varieties in dynamic, chemical and thermal processes that shape these atmospheres. Since the early explorations of these planets by spacecrafts, such as Voyager and Voyager 2, there are many outstanding questions about the long-term stability of the observed features. One hypothesis is that the internal heat generated during the formation of these planets is transported to the upper atmosphere through latent heat release from convecting clouds (i.e., moist convection). In this review, we present evidence of moist convective activity in the gas giant atmospheres of our Solar System from remote sensing data, both from ground- and space-based observations. We detail the processes that drive moist convective activity, both in terms of the dynamics as well as the microphysical processes that shape the resulting clouds. Finally, we also discuss the effects of moist convection on shaping the large-scale dynamics (such as jet structures on these planets).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number219
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
C.P. was supported by NASA Solar System Workings grant NNX16AQ03G. R.S. was supported by the NASA Solar System Workings grant 80NSSC22K0804 and NASA grant 80NSSC20M0057.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 by the authors.


  • atmospheres clouds
  • atmospheres dynamics
  • atmospheres structure
  • giant planets


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