Speaker: Sara Miller, Graduate Student, Department of Astronomy, Cornell University
Host: Tim Goudge
Title: A General Circulation Model to Assess the Dynamics and Habitability of Europa’s Ocean
Abstract: Magnetometer measurements and remote sensing data of Jupiter’s moon, Europa, give strong evidence for a salty, liquid water ocean underneath a dynamic exterior ice shell. This work demonstrates progress towards a general circulation model to study heat, salinity, and momentum transport between the ice shell and ocean at Europa. Leveraging the terrestrial MIT general circulation model (MITgcm) as a baseline, the code is modified as appropriate to adapt it to the Europa environment. An important component of the Europa model is the ice shell code, which captures melting and freezing physics using a modified version of a widely adopted parameterization developed for ice-covered portions of Earth’s ocean. Given that global ocean circulation of heat, salt, and nutrients is an essential component of maintaining the marine biosphere on Earth, the thermal, geochemical, and momentum fluxes produced by the proposed model will shed light on the potential habitability of Europa’s ocean. Moreover, using a state-of-the-art terrestrial ocean model as its foundation, the proposed model seeks to capture a level of detail far beyond what has been done in existing planetary ocean models. The anticipated results of the proposed model will advance our understanding of the dynamical mechanisms that form and sustain ocean worlds across our solar system, as well as their potential to sustain life.