if weather is caused by differential heating, why does distant Jupiter have such massive storms?



Been watching some nice Jupiter storm videos, which got me thinking…

Jupiter is super far from the sun. How is its atmosphere getting enough solar energy to cause significant weather?

In: Other

It’s not the heat that does it, it’s the temperature gradient. The DIFFERENCE in levels of heat.

Remember in your science class how heat flows toward whatever is colder?

That’s storms and wind on a massive scale with air.

Now imagine if Earth’s atmosphere was entirely gas, AND Several times larger. The keyword is differential as well, or different, a it requires is that one part is to be heated differently than the other, causing flow of heat.

Like the Earth, the core of Jupiter is hot. In fact, it radiates about double the heat out as it gets from the Sun. The energy is *probably* coming from the continual contraction of Jupiter – basically, the intense gravity of the mass of the planet is crushing the core inward, creating heat. Some of that heat is resisting the inward crush, much like how fusion in the Sun creates an outward pressure that prevents it from collapsing. Jupiter isn’t massive enough for fusion, of course, but that intense gravitational pressure generates enough heat to at least keep Jupiter contracting *slowly* as it radiates that heat out.

There’s no new source of energy, so Jupiter is slowly contracting over time and has been since its formation. New mass is added as Jupiter absorbs gasses and asteroids and stuff; however, most of the mass available in the Solar System is captured already, so Jupiter will slowly run out of energy as it contracts.

In any case, that heat is radiating out from the core, fueling weather on the planet. Some quick googling tells me that the upper clouds are somewhere around -145°C, while the core could be around 24,000°C. Unlike Earth, Jupiter isn’t solid except for *maybe* its inner core, so the whole planet is churning and whirling with massive [Hadley cells](https://www.seas.harvard.edu/climate/eli/research/equable/images/extended%20hadley%20cell.png) that carry heat up from around the core and into the upper atmosphere.