Saturn's Giant Storms behaviour is now understandable

A team of scientists provided the clues to understand, for the very first time, how the giant storms on Saturn are developed. After having analysed the evolution of the most recent Great White Spot, appeared in 2010, these scientists could not only discover why the storms on Saturn are formed, but also better understand the atmospheric dynamics in an environment which is impossible to simulate in a laboratory.

The study has been leaded by Enrique García-Melendo, researcher at the Fundació Observatori Esteve Duran – Institut de Ciències de l’Espai (CSIC-IEEC), in collaboration with the Planetary Sciences Group of the Universidad del País Vasco and the Universidad Europea Miguel de Cervantes. Most of the calculations were made at CESCA, as well as using computing tools from the Institut de Ciències de l’Espai. The results of this research have been published in Nature Geoscience in June.

The calculations revealed that the focus of the storm was deeply embedded, and that the storm transported enormous quantities of gas in water vapour to the highest levels of the planet, forming visible clouds and liberating enormous quantities of energy which altered the planet appearance for months. Such energy violently interacted with strong winds from Saturn to produce winds with speeds up to 500 km/h.

The dynamics of the storm have been analysed using high-resolution imagery obtained by the Cassini spacecraft.