Coexistence of Dunes and Humid Conditions at Titan's Tropics

Jani Radebaugh 1 R. D. Lorenz 2 J.I. Lunine 3 R. L. Kirk 4 G. G. Ori T. G. Farr 5 M. Malaska Alice Le Gall 6 Z. Y. C. Liu P. J. Encrenaz Philippe Paillou 7 A. Hayes 3 R. M. C. Lopes 5 E. P. Turtle S. D. Wall 5 E. R. Stofan 8 C. A. Wood 9
6 IMPEC - LATMOS
LATMOS - Laboratoire Atmosphères, Milieux, Observations Spatiales
7 SSE 2012
L3AB - Laboratoire d'astrodynamique, d'astrophysique et d'aéronomie de bordeaux, OASU - Observatoire aquitain des sciences de l'univers, LAB - Laboratoire d'Astrophysique de Bordeaux [Pessac], Université Sciences et Technologies - Bordeaux 1
Abstract : At Titan's equatorial latitudes there are tens of thousands of dunes, a landform typical of desert environments where sand does not become anchored by vegetation or fluids. Model climate simulations predict generally dry conditions at the equator and humid conditions near the poles of Titan, where lakes of methane/ethane are found. However, moderate relative methane humidity was observed at the Huygens landing site, recent rainfall was seen by Cassini ISS near the Belet Sand Sea, and a putative transient lake in Shangri-La was observed by Cassini VIMS, all of which indicate abundant fluids may be present, at least periodically, at Titan's equatorial latitudes. Terrestrial observations and studies demonstrate dunes can exist and migrate in conditions of high humidity. Active dunes are found in humid climates, indicating the movement of sand is not always prohibited by the presence of fluids. Sand mobility is related to precipitation, evaporation and wind speed and direction. If dune surfaces become wetted by rainfall or rising subsurface fluids, they can become immobilized. However, winds can act to dry the uppermost layers, freeing sands for saltation and enabling dune migration in wet conditions. Active dunes are found in tropical NE Brazil and NE Australia, where there are alternating dry and wet periods, a condition possible for Titan's tropics. Rising and falling water levels lead to the alteration of dune forms, mainly from being anchored by vegetation, but also from cementation by carbonates or clays. Studies of Titan's dunes, which could undergo anchoring of organic sediments by hydrocarbon fluids, could inform the relative strength of vegetation vs. cementation at humid dune regions on Earth. Furthermore, a comprehensive survey of dune morphologies near regions deemed low by SARTopo and stereo, where liquids may collect in wet conditions, could reveal if bodies of liquid have recently existed at Titan's tropics.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, June 11, 2013 - 8:51:05 AM
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Jani Radebaugh, R. D. Lorenz, J.I. Lunine, R. L. Kirk, G. G. Ori, et al.. Coexistence of Dunes and Humid Conditions at Titan's Tropics. 44th annual meeting of the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society, Oct 2012, Reno, United States. pp.#201.07. ⟨hal-00832597⟩

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