Latest Issue of Science News



Science Ticker

Your daily roundup of
research news
Ashley Yeager
Science Ticker

Turbulent ocean could explain Europa's chaotic ice

A simulation (left) of Europa’s global ocean dynamics shows warmer (red) and cooler (blue) temperatures where more heat is delivered to the ice shell near the equator. That uneven heating could explain the nonuniform pattern of ice on the moon's surface (right).

Sponsor Message

Europa, the sixth-closest moon of Jupiter, is covered with icy chunks that have been cracked and crunched into chaotic patterns.

Scientists aren’t exactly sure what processes form and shape the patterns. But new computer simulations show turbulent global ocean currents that move Europa’s internal heat to the surface most effectively in regions closest to the moon’s equator.

That varied heat distribution pattern could allow more changes to the ice features and could explain the formation of the chaotic ice patterns at the moon’s lower latitudes, researchers report December 1 in Nature Geoscience.

It’s not yet clear whether the model, scaled up from laboratory experiments and simulations, fully captures the moon’s dynamics. But, without a space mission to Europa, the model provide scientists with the best understanding to date of the moon’s ice and ocean, according to a News & Views article accompanying the research.

Note: To comment, Science News subscribing members must now establish a separate login relationship with Disqus. Click the Disqus icon below, enter your e-mail and click “forgot password” to reset your password. You may also log into Disqus using Facebook, Twitter or Google.

X